Understanding lightning

Tuesday, December 18th 2007, 6:51 pm
By: News 9

Lightning may be a beautiful display in nature, but it's also one of the most deadly one's known to man. Over 1,000 people get struck by lightning every year in the United States, and nearly 100 people die from it - more than from hurricanes or tornadoes.

What is lightning?

Lightning is a bright flash of electricity produced by a thunderstorm.

All thunderstorms produce lightning. If you are close enough to a thunderstorm to hear thunder, then you are close enough to be struck by lightning.

How Does Lightning Work?

Small pieces of ice, or rain, bump into each other inside a thundercloud and the collisions create an electrical charge. Once a cloud is fully charged a spark occurs between the positive and negative charges, similar to static electricity. The lightning spark can occur between clouds, between the cloud and the surrounding air, or between the cloud and the ground. The temperature inside a lightning bolt can reach 50,000 degrees F, which is hotter than the surface of the sun!

Lightning Rods

The lightning rod is often misunderstood. Its purpose is not to attract lightning; it just provides a safe option for the lightning strike to choose.

A lightning rod is a metal rod, typically placed on the highest part of a structure. The rod connects to a piece of copper or aluminum wire that is connected to a conductive grid buried in the ground.