The science behind the lightning phenomenon

As the stepped leader nears the ground, a positive streamer reaches up for it.

What causes lightning?

As the vapor rises higher and higher, the temperature of the surrounding air becomes lower and lower. According to some current theories on lightning formation, the negatively charged electrons from the upward-moving molecules of water are transferred to the heavier molecules that are moving downward.

This unpredictable nature of lightning is what makes it so dangerous. Bear in mind, even a gradual change in temperature can cause sound waves to bend. The flow of current instantly heats surrounding air to an extremely high temperature.

Lightning Phenomena Not only does lightning create an impressive flash, it also creates a lot of heat. This is like a static electricity sparks you see, but much bigger. The positive charge from the ground connects with the negative charge from the clouds and a spark of lightning strikes. Lightning can also be observed during volcanic eruptions, surface nuclear explosions and forest fires.

So, if a long vertical flash is one mile away, the first thunder arrives in five seconds. This process happens extremely quickly, in only a few thousandths of a second, and the heat generated by this return stroke of lightning compresses the air around the lightning bolt.

The negative charges cause positive charges to develop in the area surrounding the cloud and on the ground below.

How Lightning Works

Within storm clouds, moisture, warm and cold temperatures and fast moving air all combine to create a strong electric charge. It should be noted that if the temperatures in the surrounding air are low enough, the vapor can condense and then freeze into snow or sleet.

Have you ever got a static electricity shock? At such a height some of the water particles in the clouds are converted into ice or snow particles.

The Science of Lightning

Curriculum information Summary Lightning is an amazing natural phenomenon. Thunder follows a clap of lightning because the speed of the sound through the air is much slower than that of the electron flow that creates lightning.

The air has no time to expand since the lightning bolt occurs so quickly, meaning it is compressed to around 10 to times normal atmospheric pressure. The crystals of ice and water that constitute clouds are water molecules, and during a storm the air moves these particles around, making them collide.

Evaporation is the process by which a liquid absorbs heat and changes to a vapor. Cloud-to-cloud lightning is actually the most common type of lightning, with cloud-to-ground lighting happening around ten times less frequently than cloud-to-cloud lightning.

The friction from this moving air creates electrical charges within a cloud. A build up of positive charge builds up on the ground beneath the cloud, attracted to the negative charge in the bottom of the cloud.

The sounds continues to arrive from higher and higher up the bolt, and may last several seconds or more. With bolt temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun and shockwaves beaming out in all directions, lightning is a lesson in physical science and humility.

The electric charge caused between the Earth and the cloud serves as the perfect platform for the occurrence of lightning. Once the air, the Earth and the cloud have been neutralized by the lightning, it will not strike again.

Scientists believe that these collisions create an electric charge:Lightning becomes dangerous, though, when it reaches for the Earth. How lightning strikes When the negative charge in the cloud becomes great enough, it seeks an easy path to the positively.

The Astounding Science Behind What Causes Lightning The natural phenomenon of lightning that appears in a zigzag pattern has intrigued people across the globe for centuries.

There are several theories regarding the formation of lightning. Over 11s > Natural world > What causes lightning? What causes lightning? Lightning strikes! Have you ever got a static electricity shock? Lightning is an amazing natural phenomenon.

The Science Behind the Sound of Thunder

Use it to discuss the nature of electricity, charge and the transfer of electrical energy into heat, light and sound. Science Curriculum Links: National. Flashes of lightning against clouds create an otherworldly effect. What is the science behind this beautiful -- but dangerous -- natural phenomenon?

See more lightning pictures. Here's the phenomenon of thunder, explained.

The Astounding Science Behind What Causes Lightning

Photo courtesy ISTOCKPHOTO/CLINT SPENCER Much is written about lightning — why it occurs, its potential for danger and how to avoid it.

Lightning Phenomena.

What Causes Lightning And Thunder?

Not only does lightning create an impressive flash, it also creates a lot of heat. A bolt of lightning heats up the air around it at 25, degrees Celsius, or about 45, degrees Fahrenheit. What Causes Lightning And Thunder?, Science Trends, DOI: /SciTrends *Note, DOIs are registered Friday weekly.

The science behind the lightning phenomenon
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