Last updated 8 month ago

Why does lightning strike?

BingMag Explains why does lightning strike

Lightning strikes occur due to the buildup and discharge of electrical energy in the atmosphere. When there is a difference in electrical charge between the ground and the atmosphere, or between different regions of the atmosphere, it creates an electric field. This electric field causes the air to become ionized and conductive, allowing the flow of electric current.

The exact mechanism of lightning formation is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve the separation of positive and negative charges within a thunderstorm cloud. As the storm develops, ice particles and water droplets collide, causing the positive and negative charges to separate. The positive charges accumulate at the top of the cloud, while the negative charges gather at the bottom.

Eventually, the electric field becomes strong enough to overcome the insulating properties of the air, and a stepped leader is initiated. The stepped leader is a channel of ionized air that propagates downward from the cloud towards the ground in a series of steps. It is not visible to the naked eye.

Simultaneously, a streamer may be initiated from a tall object on the ground, such as a tree or a building. The streamer is a channel of ionized air that propagates upward towards the cloud. When the stepped leader and the streamer connect, a path is established for the flow of electric current.

This flow of electric current is what we see as a lightning strike. It is a rapid discharge of electrical energy along the established path, which heats the air and produces a bright flash of light. The intense heat causes the surrounding air to expand rapidly, creating a shockwave that we hear as thunder.

Lightning strikes can occur within a cloud (intra-cloud lightning), between different clouds (inter-cloud lightning), or between a cloud and the ground (cloud-to-ground lightning). The majority of lightning strikes are cloud-to-ground, and they often follow the path of least resistance, which is typically the tallest object in the vicinity.

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