How Lightning is Formed

How lightning is formed

Lightning is a marvel of the natural world. Man in his desire to create can only try to copy natures deadliest fireworks display. When man stumbled upon electricity he began to understand the workings of natures electrical storms.It is hard to believe that storm clouds are floating electrical dangers.

There are two theories as to why lightning is formed.

1. Electrostatic induction: updrafts carrying water is cooled and they collide with frozen ice crystals forming a water/ice mixture called graupel. This collision creates friction causing the graupel to be negative charged and ice crystals to be positive charged. The updraft carries the lighter ice crystals to the top of the cloud increasing the positive charge. The heavier graupel is pulled by gravity to the bottom of the cloud increasing the negative charge.

2. Ice and water falling through Earth’s electric field collide causing negative and positive charges.

These negative and positive charges cause the air molecules to breakdown. The cloud stores the electrical charge until it reaches tens of thousand of volts. The breakdown spreads out like a crack in many directions through the clouds and ultimately to the ground, this breakdown is called Step Leaders.

When the first charge releases it follows the path of least resistance. This first release of electricity causes the some of the molecules to reform to their normal state. The leftover charge in the cloud follows another path and this process continues until the charge is exhausted. All this happens with in milliseconds.

The different types of lightning are amazing:

Cloud to ground is your typical everyday lightning bolts.

Ribbon lightning is when high winds blow the lightning across the cloud in ripples.

Bead lightning is a rare instance where you have a short string of discharges.

Staccato lightning is a short and bright strike that branches out.

Ground to cloud strikes from the ground to the cloud.

Cloud to cloud lightning is called inter-cloud lightning and lightning within one cloud is called intro-cloud lightning.

Sheet lightning is a bright light were the lightning strike is hidden.

Heat lightning is not heard because its to far away and the thunder dissipates before you hear it.

Dry lightning occurs without rain.

Rocket lightning shoots off across the bottom of the cloud.

Positive lightning occurs miles ahead of the storm giving it the name “bolt from the blue.”

Ball lightning is a ball of lightning and can last for a few seconds.

Volcanoes can cause lightning strikes.

Elves occur in the ionosphere above a thundercloud and can expand to 250 mile in diameter as a flat sphere.

Blue jets occur as a cone above thunderclouds.

Sprites occur above thunderclouds which are reddish-orange or greenish-blue with tentacles below and arcing branches above with a reddish halo.