We have learned about devastating forces of nature like earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes and today, we are here to learn yet another – lightning. Contrary to its unique beauty, this particular force of nature is just as deadly as any other we have learned so far. So, what is lightning? What produces it? Why is it so deadly? This article on 40 interesting lightning facts is going to walk you through some really mind-blowing facts you were possibly unaware of. Even we didn’t know until we decided to dig out some of these crazy stuff. So, you ready?
Interesting Lightning Facts: 1-5
1. An electrostatic discharged caused during an electric storm is known as lightning. Such a discharge can take place in various forms.
2. It can be an intra-cloud or IC lightning where electrostatic discharge takes place between different electrically charged zones of a single cloud.
3. Another type of electrostatic discharge is known as cloud-to-cloud or CC lightning. Here the discharge takes place between two different clouds.
4. CG lightning or cloud-to-ground lightning is a type where electrostatic discharge takes place between cloud and ground.
5. There is a type of lightning which is known as Positive Giant. This type of lightning is known for hitting ground at a distance of 20 miles from the storm.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 6-10
6. A Positive Giant also goes by the name “A Bolt from the Blue” because it actually seems to be hitting from a clear sky.
7. A Positive Giant definitely comes from a cloud but actually originates from the top anvil of and strikes the Earth. It is multiple times more destructive than a regular lightning.
8. The average striking length of a regular lightning is about 2 to 3 miles and carries electricity of nearly 100 million volts.
9. Lightning without a thunder is impossible. This is because, thunder is actually the sound created by lightning.
10. Light travels faster than sound and that’s why lightning strike can be seen first and then the thunder can be heard. It is because of this speed difference between light and sound that it is actually possible to calculate the distance of storm.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 11-15
11. If you are able to count up to 5 seconds from the time you see the lightning to the time you hear the thunder, you can deduce that the storm is at a distance of 1 mile because sound takes 5 seconds travel a distance of 1 mile.
12. Fulminology is the term used to describe the study of lightning.
13. Lightning strikes have an average lifespan of 1-2 microseconds.
14. Spider Lightning or Lightning Crawlers are known to travel a distance of over 35 miles. They travel across clouds’ bottom or through frontal cloud squall lines. Avil Crawler is yet another name used for describing Spider Lightning.
15. There is something known as Ball Lightning. These look like spherical luminous balls and appear during thunderstorms. They can be stationary or they can actually travel fast or slow.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 16-20
16. Ball Lightning may be quiet or they can actually produce a crackling or hissing sound. Sometimes, they just fade away within seconds or minutes or they can disappear suddenly with a very loud bang.
17. There is something known as cloud-to-air (CA) lightning. In this form, the electrical discharge jumps out into air and disappears. Could-to-air lightning can often be seen with CG lightning in form of branches.
18. A lightning strike can be seen from a distance of over 100 miles however, the visibility depends on several factors like air clarity, height of the bolt and even the elevation of the viewer.
19. A thunder will not travel as far as lightning. The maximum distance a thunder can travel is 12 miles in a quiet environmental setting. In a busy city setting, a thunder can be heard at a distance of a maximum of 5 kilometers.
20. A Forked Lightning is a type of lightning that can be a CG lightning, a CC lightning or a CA lightning. It looks like branched jagged lines and is capable of striking at a distance of 10 miles from the thunderstorm.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 21-25
21. Green Elves, Red Sprites and Blue Jets are three different types of high altitude lightning.
22. Green Elves or plain Elves usually span over an area of 300 miles and appear like an expanding disc. They occur right over an area of CG lightning and last only for a few thousandths of a second, making them virtually invisible to a naked pair of eyes on ground.
23. Green Elves are usually visible from space and the first one ever recorded was in 1992 by NASA using a low-light video camera of a space shuttle.
24. Red Sprites are actually flashes of lights that shoot up to a distance of 60 miles from the top of an active thunderstorm cloud. They are usually associated with powerful CG lightning beneath.
25. Red Sprites or simply Sprites are faint with soft glow and are often compared with jellyfish, carrots and columns. They are not usually visible to naked eyes and the first one to be ever photographed was in 1989.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 26-30
26. Blue Jets are pretty interesting. As the name suggests, they look like blue beams of energy. They shoot upward from the top of a thunderstorm and extend upward forming narrow cones and then gradually dissipating.
27. Blue Jets can travel up to 30 miles straight up. They are neither aligned with local magnetic fields and nor are they associated to CG lightning directly, thereby making them pretty mysterious events.
28. A CG lightning can actually strike people on ground. That’s because the negative charges at the bottom of a could lead to formation of positive charges on ground. The lightning bolt seeks the shortest route to reach the positively charged particles on ground. These positively charged particles on the other hand have a tendency to concentrating around anything sticking up. Tall building and trees are usually the victims but in absence of any such structure, these charges concentrate around the feet of a person in an open place and bam! The person becomes the shortest route.
29. Human victims of lightning strike (who somehow manage to survive) form strange rash on their skin. The rash looks like tree branches and are usually red in color. These rashes are known as Lichtenberg figures and usually depict the path of the electrical discharge traveling through skin.
30. A tree hit by a lightning strike can explode. This happens because the enormous heat generate by the lightning strike vaporizes the sap of a tree and produces steam which then escapes by exploding the tree trunk.
Interesting Lightning Facts 31-35
31. When an extremely powerful lightning strikes a rock or sand, the mineral beneath get fused because of the enormous amount of heat generated by the lightning. This fusion takes place in form of a tube which is known as fulgurite. The are often referred to as lightning fossils and have been discovered worldwide despite being relatively rare.
32. About 50 to 100 CG lightning strikes the Earth’s surface every second.
33. During lightning, the surrounding air is immediately heated up to the temperature of 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This sudden rise in temperature cause the air to expand very rapidly, sending out a shock wave in the surrounding area leading to a thunder.
34. In CG lightning, the light that we see is actually a return stroke. First, the electrical discharge flows from cloud to earth in paths what is known as stepped leader. The illumination of stepped leader is very dim and is not visible to eyes. When the stepped leader is close enough to the ground (around 300 feet above the ground), similar stepped leaders are initiated from ground which move up to meet the descending ones. When the descending and the ascending leaders meet, a high current is discharged violently which travels down to the ground. This violent discharge of current produces a bright light which moves or travels up along the leader. It is this upward moving light that we see and think of it as light traveling in downward direction but the reality is that it travels in upward direction.
35. A typical lightning bolt measures no more than half or may be quarter of a dollar in width however, it looks far more wider because of the bright light.
Interesting Lightning Facts: 36-40
36. The fear of lightning and thunder is known as astraphobia.
37. Lightning over land is far more common than lightning over oceans and seas.
38. More than 2000 people worldwide are killed by lightning strikes.
39. A lightning bolt has a temperature of roughly 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which around 5 times hotter than Sun‘s surface.
40. A Ribbon Lightning is a type of lightning in which the thunderstorm has very strong cross winds and there are multiple return strokes. Because of the strong cross winds, the successive return strokes are blown slightly to the side of the previous stroke and thereby causing a ribbon effect.
Weird Fact: Did you know that in October 1998, in a football match between Bena Tshadi and Basanga in eastern province named Kasai in Congo, Africa, a lightning strike (possibly a Positive Giant) killed all 11 football players on Bena Tshadi team right on the field? Players of the opponent Basanga team were left untouched. People started associating the event with witchcraft.