What is Lightning and How it occurs?

Lightning is one of the most beautiful displays we can see in our nature which can certainly be deadly at times. It is sudden electrostatic discharge between the electrically charged regions of the cloud.

Have you experienced static electricity shock? Or seen sparks when you take off your jumper (sweater)? When lightning is made the same thing happens, but on a much bigger scale.



In ancient times when amber was rubbed with fur, it attracted light-weighted objects such as hair. If we change our cloth in the dark we will see or hear some kind of spark. In 1752, American scientist Benjamin Franklin said that the phenomenon of sparks from the clothes and lightning is the same but people did not agree with him.

In ancient times people did not understand the cause of lightning, and they thought that it is some kind of wrath of gods which is visiting them.


How Lightning Occurs?

Lightning is an electric discharge of current. Within a thundercloud way up in the sky, many small bits of ice (frozen raindrops) bump into each other as they move around in the air. All of those collisions create an electric charge. After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges. The positive charges or protons form at the top of the cloud and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, that causes a positive charge to build up on the ground beneath the cloud. The grounds electrical charge concentrates around anything that sticks up, such as mountains, people, or single trees. The charge coming up from these points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds and lightning strikes.

A single stroke of lightning can heat the air around it to 30,000°C! That is six times hotter than the surface of the sun! This extreme heating causes the air to expand explosively fast. The expansion creates a shock wave that turns into a booming sound wave, known as thunder.


What is thunder?

When a lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground it actually opens up a little hole in the air, called a channel. Once then light is gone the air collapses back in and creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. The reason we see lightning before we hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound!


Lightning Safety Precautions

• No place is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.

• When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter.

• Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

• Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.

• Avoid plumbing, including sinks,baths, etc.

•  Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

• Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.

• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.

• Never lie flat on the ground.

• Never shelter under an isolated tree.

• Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.

• Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (power lines, windmills, etc).


The End Notes

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