Science Course with Ryan Morse: how does lightning form?

Beyond The Forecast

 (WFRV) – This week is Lightning Awareness Week, and it is important to understand the concept of how lightning is created.  

In fact, lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun and can reach temperatures around 50,000 degrees. So how does it form? 

There are charges within a thunderstorm. Electrons, which have a negative charge, within that storm zig zag towards the ground until one draws a positive charge.

Once the charges connect, a current flows and the return stroke is the lightning strike we see traveling 60,000 miles per second. 

Thunder is the sound we hear from this lightning strike. The second image in the slideshow show some of the different types of lightning strikes within a thunderstorm. Intracloud lightning strikes are very common within a storm.  

However, the lightning strikes we usually have to watch for are cloud to ground lightning strikes, and those can turn deadly. 

Over the past 5 years, the United States has seen a total of 114 fatalities from lightning (National Weather Service). 9 people were killed from lightning in the state of Wisconsin from 2006 to 2019 (NWS). According to the National Lightning Safety council, 40 people were killed by lightning strikes fishing in that same time frame. 

The best place to be when a thunderstorm hits is inside, away from the windows.

Send Storm Team 5 your best photos of lightning to us on social media:

WFRV Local 5 on Facebook

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