An Overview on Types of Lightning

Some people think of lightning as beautiful and exciting. Nature’s fireworks display can be brilliant, and certainly noisy, but some forms are also extremely dangerous.

1. Cloud to ground lightning is the form of lightening that is one of the most spectacular and the most dangerous. Lightning is caused by positive and negative charges meeting, and when the positive charges come from the earth, the lightening reaches the ground, or the highest available object on the ground. Since lightning can travel at over 60,000 mph, anyone in the path of one of these bolts has no chance to escape, or actually see it coming. Every year these are the lightening bolts that start fires in forests, as well as homes and other buildings.

2. Ground to cloud lightning occurs when lightning actually begins on the ground, usually at the top of a tall structure, and goes upward.

3. Cloud to cloud, or inter-cloud lightning happens between two clouds that have negative and positive charges. This is what you are seeing when you notice the bright light flashes in the sky behind a cloud layer. Fortunately, these do not reach the ground.

4. Intra-cloud lightning is much like inter-cloud except it happens between positive and negative charges within the same cloud.

5. Anvil crawlers are streaks of lightening that occur horizontally across the sky. They are slow enough so that you can actually get a good look at their movement. The name comes from the fact that they seem to be crawling beneath the lower part, or anvil of the storm.

6. Sheet lightning is when the sky lights up, but you can’t actually see the bolts, due to the distance, or the fact that they are been obscured by cloud cover.

7. Heat lightning, most often seen on warm summer nights, is much like sheet lightning. The distant sky lights up periodically, but no storm is present, because the main activity may be miles away.

8. Bead and ribbon lightning are self explanatory. The bead lightning looks like beads as it dissipates, and the ribbon lightening like a long curving ribbon. Ribbon lightning is formed from the return of a cloud to ground strike.

9. Bolt from the blue is actually a description of a lightning strike that occurs on a perfectly sunny day with blue skies. The lightning originates high up in at the top of a cloud that may be producing a storm miles away.

10. Ball lightning has been reported by many people, but hasn’t actually been formally documented by many scientists. Apparently, this is a ball of charged particles that can travel quickly, sometimes passing through buildings, making a hissing or crackling noise. It may actually appear to be red. This is very rare.

Lightning is an interesting phenomena, however, it is still electricity and should be observed with care.