It is cool to watch lightning from the comfort of your house. But, it is quite another thing if you are out in the Rocky Mountains somewhere and you see a lightning storm rolling in. Luckily, as long as you follow lightning safety measures you should be safe. Here are a bunch of strange lightning facts to help you better understand this danger.
What is Lightning?
Lightning is the very, very fast transfer of electricity between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud.
Lightning comes from clouds in the sky. Clouds are made up of ice and water crystals. In a storm cloud the ice and water crystals collide, releasing electrical charges. Eventually enough of these charges build up in a cloud that it needs to be released in the form of lightning.
The bolt of lightning that is release is the negative particles in the cloud connecting with positive particles on the ground or another cloud. The lightning can travel from a cloud to the ground, or another cloud.
Direct Strike – the most dangerous part of lightning is a direct strike from a cloud to ground strike. This is extremely high voltage, meaning the high electricity could kill you.
Surface Arcs – It is never safe to stand under a single tree in a lightning storm. This is because lightning is attracted to the highest point around. If the tree is struck there will usually be ‘surface arcs’. These are like a series of flashes that go out from the base of the tree in a circle up to 20 meters.
If you are standing under a tree that gets struck by lightning you will likely be struck by the surface arcs of lightning. The surface arcs can travel up to 20 meters from the tree.
Ground Current – Lightning is nothing more that electricity that forms. If an object gets struck by this incredibly high voltage electricity then some of that electricity will travel on the ground in the nearby area. The ground current will not be as high in electricity as the strike itself, but it can be very dangerous.
- When your hair stands on end and your skin feels prickly, be warned that lightning may be about to strike near you.
- Lightning can strike even in places that it is not raining. It can travel and strike up to 10 miles away as it travels from the edge of a cloud/storm and travels horizontally before striking the ground.
- Lightning creates electric currents that travel along the ground and can be deadly up to 100 feet away!
- Each lightning flash is about three miles long, but only centimeters wide.
- Lightning is incredibly hot – about 20,000 degrees Celsius! It is so hot that as it travels it quickly heats up the air around it. The surrounding air heats so fat that it creates a shock wave (the boom of thunder).
Here is an easy way to determine how far away the lightning is.