Lightning is one of the most powerful products of our Mother Earth. It displays great electrical strength with the flash along with its complementary thunderous sound. In the eyes of primitive man lightning was misunderstood as the wrath of gods, and for good reason. Its power is unmatched and greatly distinguishable from the other forces of nature. Even now in modern day knowledge not all of the sheets have been removed for the view of man of these incredible phenomena.
1. Though many times as you watch lightning storms, either from the superficial safety of your home or in
2. The lightning strike happens so quickly that it appears instantaneously, when in reality the strike is actually the result of many roots sprawling to reach the ground to make a connection and equalize the electrical charges of between the clouds and – usually – the ground.
3. These ‘root’ that form before the strike are called step leaders, and many form in the ionized air channels that they travel through. However, only one can make the connection. Once one touches down, the others fade away.
4. Because step leaders follow the channels created by the ionization of the air, it is uncommon for them to follow straights paths as the channels are usually uneven. This gives lighting its zig zag shape when it strikes.
5. This is also why lighting doesn’t always strike tall objects in fields and meadows, though it is more likely to strike a taller object because the step leaders do not need to travel as far in order to release and equalize its stored energy this way.
6. You can calculate the distance of the lightning strike by how long after the flash you hear the thunder. You do this by counting the seconds and dividing this by 5, resulting in the miles the strike occurred away from your current position.
7. For further details and an explanation for why this is, the speed of sound through air is approximately 340m/s or around 780mph. If you convert the 780mph into seconds you will get a speed of 0.211 miles/second. So for the time for sound to travel 1 mile, you divide 1mile/0.211 miles/second giving you 4.73 seconds. So for a more precise calculation, you may divide the time between the flash and the moment you hear its thunder by 4.73 to arrive at the distance away the strike occurred.
8. If anyone is concerned about why the flash of light is not concerned in the calculation of the distance, it is because light travels significantly faster compared to sound such that consideration is not necessary in the calculation. How fast is light? Well sound travels at 340m/s while light travels at 3x10^8m/s or in numerical form, 300000000m/s.
9. The most common forms of lightning are cloud to ground and cloud to cloud, called CG’s and CC’s respectively.
10. A discharge found in lightning is often hotter than the surface of the sun and can shoot up to 100
11. When lightning strikes, the air around the strike will heat up so much that it will actually explode. This explosion creates a compression of air that travels away from the strike as thunder.
12. Aside from the normal lightning strikes, sheet lightning appears different as it is capable of illuminating an entire skyscape. This is however not caused by some supernatural phenomena as this is simply the result of the strike reflecting in the clouds, often behind one from the point of the view of the viewer.
13. Volcanic lightning occurs nearby erupting volcanoes, though not much is known about their occurrence besides Mother Nature trying to equalize the differences in electrical charges. It is thought by NASA that the magma itself is electrically charged and thus generates the lightning. One particular volcano in Japan has been reeling in some photographic documentation of the phenomena, and it is truly the magnificent sight as the blue lightning contrasts against the pillars of smoke surround the gates of hell.
14. Ball lighting is another particular lighting type that is so mysterious that scientists are unsure of whether to categorize them underneath natural events or under the shroud of UFO’s and other unconfirmed occurrences. Ball lightning is often described as bright spherical objects floating in the sky and is associated with thunderstorms. In the anecdotal accounts of hundreds of years, ball lightning has been seen – not scientifically backed – to pass through walls or kill people. They range between a few meters to small balls. Not much is scientifically known/confirmed about them and there is obviously also no consensus on the topic as of yet.
15. Lightning rods despite common mis-conception do not attract lightning, but rather provide a low resistance path for the lightning to follow through and disperse to minimize nearby structural damage. It’s not that it doesn’t attract the lighting; it just allows an easier path for the lightning to strike, meaning that lightning is still capable of strike far away or close to the rod.
Lightning is a natural phenomenon that is both mis-understood due to the limits of our knowledge and the miss-conceptions present in the norms of society. It is also a very large topic that cannot be explored in a single article; there is simply too much interesting information to be shared to finish it off here. So expect more to come soon.
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