Does lightning affect mobile phones and their users

During rain and thunder storms it is advisable not to have contact with any metal parts, like water lines and window grills, telephone and TV cables, which are also exposed outside. This increases the risk of getting hit by the lightning. So it is better to avoid using a landline telephone during thunderstorms.

Lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon in which a huge amount of electric charge gets transported from the charged clouds to the earth through the atmospheric air; damp air provides easy path because the water vapour in it can easily be ionised. That is why lightning strikes often during rain. The propensity of a lightning is enhanced with proximity of the cloud to the nearest point on earth, if a sharp conducting object is located at an elevated place.

The lightning conductor is essentially such a device that directs the flow of charge along the conductor and saves the building from destruction by lightning. The landline telephone cable network provides conducting path.

So, it enhances the chance of lightning strike. In the special case where and when an ionised path can be set in the atmosphere, lightning can take this path because the ionised path acts as a line of higher electrical conductivity.

However, in the usage of cell phone neither the user is connected to any conductor network nor does it produce any easy path for movement of charge.Therefore, usage of cell phone during thunderstorm should be safe and should not increase the probability of lightning strike. However, such a fear has been going around with a few news events, one in U.K., one in China and possibly more, wherein lightning is said to have struck people while using a cell phone during rain and thunderstorm. But this should be weighed against the large number of other people dying by thunderbolt while not using cell phones.