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The Lowdown on Lightning

Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning and the thunder

Listen to the wise music lyrics of the Imagine Dragons and be reminded it is spring and with spring we get storms. Did you know that lightning strikes somewhere on Earth every second? Pretend you are a fulminologist (one who studies lightning) and spout a few fun facts about lightning to your kids at the dinner table. (We are not responsible for any eye rolling that may occur.)

Let’s start with the basics. What is lightning? Lightning is a large and powerful burst of electricity that is caused when an electrical charge in the atmosphere that is unbalanced. Inside a thundercloud, ice and rain are moving around and this movement creates an electrical charge. The negative charge forms at the bottom of the cloud (which is usually a cumulonimbus cloud) and the positive charge forms at the top of the cloud. The old saying, “opposites attract” is true even when it comes storms, so the negative charge hunts down the positive charge and boom, a connection occurs.

But not all lightning forms in clouds. Sometimes the lightning occurs between two clouds to from a cloud to the ground. Remember the negative charge is looking for a positive charge. So, sometimes the closest positive charge that can be found is on the ground. It may find a building, a tree or even you! Watch out because there are thousands of people struck by lightning a year and these strikes are usually fatal. Lightning contains millions of volts of electricity and the average temperature of lightning is 36,000°F. Just think what that could do to a person!

Yep, it’s true, thunder is the sound that is caused by lightning. As we explained before, lightning is so hot that the heat from the lightning causes the surrounding air to expand very quickly. The rapidly expanding air creates a sonic wave. That wave you hear is thunder. Thunder can sounds many different ways. Sometimes it comes across as a loud cracking noise while other times it is a low rumble. We see lightning before we hear the thunder because light travels faster than sound.

But don’t be scared of lightning and develop Astraphobia. Just know the facts. Amaze your co-workers in the break room and ignore the kid’s heavy sighs and eye rolls and drop these knowledge bombs on them!



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