Charges at Work

By: Brandon Chong

Lightning

Lightning is a massive electric discharge that is caused by unbalanced electric charges up in the atmosphere, which therefore, results in a strike. These strikes are from the cloud to itself, or cloud to the ground and it is often accompanied by the loud noise of thunder.

A Cloud to ground lightning usually strikes for over 5 kilometers long, while a typical thunderstorm can have up to 3 or more strikes per minute at its peak.

Lightning is usually produced in the cumulonimbus clouds which are up to 25 kilometers high and 5 - 6 kilometers above the ground.

Interestingly, lightning may also occur during snow storms, volcanic eruptions, dust storms, forest fires or tornadoes.




How Lightning is Created

1. The air currents present in the storm cloud results in charge separation. Now, the top area of the cloud is positively charged, while the bottom becomes negatively charged.
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2. The negative charges that are located on the bottom of the cloud induces a positive charge on the ground which is below the cloud. This is accomplished by repelling the negative charges in the ground.

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3. When the bottom of the cloud has accumulated enough negative charges, the attraction of the positive charges below causes electrons in the bottom of the cloud to move toward the ground.


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4. When the electrons get close to the ground, they attract positive ions that surge upward, completing the connection between the cloud and the ground. this is the spark that you see as a lightning flash.
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Some Types of Lightning