What is Lightning?
Lightning is a bright flash of electricity
produced by a thunderstorm. All thunderstorms produce lightning and are very
dangerous. If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from
lightning. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or
tornadoes; between 75 to 100 people.
What causes Lightning?
Lightning is an electric 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 - zap - lightning strikes!
Have you ever rubbed your
feet across carpet and then touched a metal door handle? If so, then you know
that you can get shocked! Lightning works in the same way.
How hot is Lightning?
Lightning is approximately 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That is six times hotter than the surface of the sun!
What color is Lightning?
Lightning seems to be clear or a white-yellow color, but it really depends on the background.
What causes Thunder?
Thunder is caused by
lightning. 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!
How do you know if lightning is nearby?
If you see dark clouds, then lightning could be present, but the best thing you
can do is to listen for thunder. If you hear thunder, then you need to go indoors or get in a car. Don't be outside, where lightning could strike! If
your hair stands on end or your skin starts to tingle, lightning maybe about to strike. Get down on your hands and knees and keep your head tucked in. Do not
lay flat, because it can give lightning a better chance of strike you.
How far away can you see lightning and hear thunder?
Within those distant thunderstorms, the lightning bolts
can be seen as much as 100 miles from us, depending on the height of the bolt,
the clarity of the air, and our elevation. Thunder, in comparison, has a much
shorter range of detection - usually less than 15 miles in a quiet rural
setting and under 5 miles in a noisy city environment.