How Is Lightning Generated?

At any one time, there are about 2000 thunderstorms happening all around the world. In one day, about 8 million lightning strikes take place, unleashing the power of more than 2 million tons of TNT!! But how do they form in the first place?

Here it goes:

Clouds are in the first layer of the atmosphere, called the Troposphere. Currents of turbulent wind causes clouds to mix and hit each other. As a result, friction is produced between tiny water and ice particles called “hydrometeors.”

Electrostatic charge begins to build up in these clouds. For unknown reasons, the lighter particles pick up the positive charge and the heavier particles pick up the negative charge. As a result, the top of the clouds become positively charged and the bottom of the clouds become negatively charged.

 We know that opposites attract and insulators inhibit.  As positive and negative charges begin to separate, an electric field begins to generate between the top and bottom of the clouds. Further separation of the positive and negative charges strengthen the electric field.

Since air is a very good insulator that inhibits electric flow, a LARGE amount of charge (measured in millions of Volts) needs to generate before lightning can take place. Once this threshold is reached, the strength of the build-up of charge overcomes the strength of the insulating air, and LIGHTNING STRIKES! BAM

When lightning strikes the ground, the heat from the electricity raises the heat of the surrounding air to 20,000 degrees celsius (three times hotter than the surface of the sun) VERY quickly. As a result, the air is compressed and explodes outward from the channel, forming a shockwave of compressed particles in every direction. The rapidly expanding waves of compressed air create a very loud noise that we call Thunder.

What do you think? Do you like this? How about a question you would like me to answer for next week’s blog.

Sources Used-

http://regentsprep.org/regents/physics/phys03/alightnin/

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/howdothunderstormswork-2/

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning.htm

http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/thunder.html

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