All About Lightning

All About Lightning


Lightning begins in cumulonimbus clouds (thunderclouds). When the thunderclouds reach high in to the atmosphere, it is so cold that the water droplets in the clouds turn into small hailstones and ice crystals. As these rub and crash against each other, static electricity starts to build up.

Not so long after, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges, and as the storm moves over the ground, the strong negative charge in the cloud attracts positive charges in the ground, and with this, the electrical energy in the thundercloud is released in the form of huge sparks, called lightning.


As lightning bolts takes the shortest path it can between the cloud and the ground, it normally strikes tall obstacles, so nowadays, while under construction, most high rise buildings have a metal lightning rod or conductor attached to their rooftops.

A wire attached to the rod runs down the side of the building and set into the ground. So if lightning strikes the rod on top of the building, the electrical charge is safely carried away from the building, down the wire and into the Earth.


Lightning that jumps between a cloud and the ground is called forked lightning.

Forked lightning is very visible as you can see in the image above.

Lightning that jumps from a cloud to another cloud is called sheet lightning.

Sheet lightning is hard to see because it is hidden by the cloud that it lights up.

Lightning is a very bright flash of electricity that occurs in a thunderstorm.

A lightning bolt is four times hotter than the Sun.

Lightning can be as hot as approximately 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightning contains millions of volts of electricity.

Lightning strikes about 100 times per second on Earth. Global Warming is increasing this rate, due to more warm air producing more thunderstorms.

Lightning kills more people every year than Hurricanes or Tornadoes, around 2000 people a year.

Lightning bolts travels at speeds of up to 60,000 miles per second, while the average length of a single lightning bolt is 2-3 miles.

Thunder is the sound caused by lightning. When lightning strikes it creates a hole in the air called a channel. After the lightning has stopped the hole collapses creating the sound wave of thunder.

The reason we see lightning before we hear the thunder is because light travels faster than sound.

Lightning is most likely to hit tall objects, including buildings, trees, mountains and people.

The empire state building in New York city is struck by lightning about 25 times per year.

If you hear a thunderstorm in the distance, count the seconds between the first flash of lightning and the first clap of thunder, divide it by 5, and this will tell you how many miles away the thunderstorm is.

The odds of someone being hit by lightning in their lifetime are one in 13,000.

Lightning can also happen during volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, snowstorms or dust storms.

If there is lightning when a volcano erupts, it’s called a dirty thunderstorm.

The saying “lightning never strikes twice in the same place” is not true, as it can strike many times in the same place.

Lightning can strike up to 24 km (15 miles) away from the storm.

Fulminology is the study of lightning.

Astraphobia is the fear of thunder and lightning.

If you are outside during a thunder and lightning storm, stay away from trees and electricity poles. Stay away from water, telephones and anything metal at all, as they all conduct electricity and can be very dangerous.