Electrostatic Lightning

By: Adrianna Letros

Lightning is said to be one of the world's most powerful displays, in nature, of electrostatics. Lightning is never gone unnoticed, it is never planned, nor invited but when it occurs the surge of electricity can send shivers down your back. It can send children crying to their parents or even wake someone at night. Lightning is a powerful thing and is not only beautiful but also demonstrates the use of electrostatics very well.

How Lightning Works

Storm clouds form when humid, warm air rises to meet a colder air mass. As these air masses meet, lightning occurs. Lightning happens when the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud become strongly attracted to the opposite charge of the positive ground below. Air currents in the cloud causes the charge separation. The top of the cloud is positive while all the electrons are closer to the bottom of the cloud. The negative charges at the bottom of the cloud, cause induced charge separation in the ground because the electrons in the earth are repelled by the negative cloud. Once the bottom of the cloud gathers enough electrons, they become so strongly attracted to the ground that the cloud starts moving downwards. When the electrons get close to the ground the protons rush upwards due to the strong attraction and this completes the connection between the cloud and the ground. "The rapidly moving electrons excite the air along the path so much that it emits light. It also heats the air so intensely that it rapidly expands creating thunder"(Wagon). This spark is what you see as the lighting flash.
How lightning works

there are different types of lighting:

lighting is dangerous

When cloud-to-ground lighting occurs, it looks for the shortest route to a positively charged object. The shortest route could be a telephone pole, a tree, a tall building or a very unlucky person! Lightning contains millions of volts of electricity and because of this it can be very dangerous.


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Wagon, Joy. Lightning Physics. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. <http://regentsprep.org/regents/physics/phys03/alightnin/>.

Science Explains Lightning . Web. 13 Feb. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipAemhMEKwE>.