Extreme Electrical Discharge
Credit: Thomas Bresson
License: CC BY-NC 3.0
During a storm, the lightning streaks that arc across the sky or strike the Earth are a result of a massive electrical discharge.
Amazing But True
- There are three different types of lightning: Cloud-to-Cloud, Intra-Cloud and Cloud-to-Ground. Humans are most affected by cloud-to-ground lighting, as it can be dangerous when it make contact with the ground.
- Lighting occurs when a warm and cold air mass mix, resulting in polarization of the atmosphere. When there is a sufficiently large electric potential between the cloud and the ground, a lightning bolt can be seen as the electric charge is transferred from the cloud to the ground.
- Some natural observations associated with lighting are discussed below:
- The rolling thunder that is often heard is a result of the shock waves from the lightning bolt originating from along the whole lighting bolt rather that a single point.
- If thunder is heard 5 seconds after a lightning flash is seen, this tells you that the strike was approximately 1 mile away.
- Lightning has been observed on other planets.
- One of the earliest known lightning detectors was invented by Andrew Gordon. It consisted of a conducting rod and two metal bells.
- Watch a lightning strike in slow motion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLWIBrweSU8
Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.
- Why does lighting occur?
- Why is there sometimes a delay between seeing a lightning bolt and hearing it?
- Some people that have been struck by lightning have reported a tingling feeling in their body before the strike. What explain this?