If you have noticed a discrepancy in the occurrence of lightning each time a storm hits, we’ve got to give it to you; you’ve got a good eye. But why is it that a natural phenomenon is selective?
Lightning requires charged particles, an electric field, updrafts and downdrafts, enough particles and droplets, and a path of least resistance to the ground. Some storms successfully provide these optimal conditions for lightning to form, while others fail to do so.
For more information on this, please continue reading.
What Causes Lightning?
Lightning is a natural electrical phenomenon that occurs during thunderstorms. It is a rapid and intense electrical discharge that occurs within a storm cloud, between a storm cloud and the ground, or between two storm clouds.
It is created by the separation of positive and negative charges within a storm cloud caused by the interaction of rising and falling air currents. This charge separation creates a strong electric field which allows for electricity discharge in the form of lightning.
While lightning can be beautiful to watch, it can also be deadly. On average, lightning kills around 30 people in the United States annually and injures hundreds more. It is absolutely crucial to be wary of the chances of lightning and stay out of its path by taking necessary precautions and staying indoors.
Important Components In Storms That Cause Lightning
Below we have discussed in detail each component that plays a role in the production and amplification of lightning during a storm.
As discussed, a negative and positive charge must be separated in a cloud for lightning to occur. This separation is caused by the interaction of rising and falling air currents, which cause water droplets and ice particles to collide and become charged.
Lightning will not be produced if a cloud does not aid the formation of charged particles.
An electric field will be formed if charges are present and they begin to obtain increased charge. The stronger the charge, the stronger the field will be. This electric field continues gaining energy and forms a path for the electrical discharge, which then displays as lightning.
Updrafts And Downdrafts
Charged particles cannot gain charge if they stay stagnant in one position. Their movement is crucial to their strength, the formation of the electric field, and the discharge of electricity.
For this, updrafts and downdrafts occur in thunderstorms within a cloud. The movement aids the increment in the charges of the particles.
Water Droplets And Ice Particles
As mentioned earlier, water droplets and ice particles carry the charge. As these particles and droplets move around and take on a specific charge, they aid in the process of the formation of lightning.
Grounding is when the electricity is transferred outside of the source to another neutral object. In the case of lightning, this object is the ground. If the access to the ground has the least resistance, the lightning produced will be more frequent and stronger.
Why Do Some Storms Not Have Lightning?
Considering all of the factors we just discussed, some storms effectively provide an adequate environment for lightning formation. These storms provide enough moisture, water droplets, particles, updrafts and downdrafts, and the path of least resistance for the lightning to hit the ground.
The absence of these characteristics also means lightning might not occur.
Which Storm Has The Most Intense Lightning?
The storms that are most notorious for bringing lightning and thunder with them are thunderstorms. They are characterized by strong updrafts and downdrafts, which help to separate positive and negative charges within the storm cloud.
This charge separation creates a strong electric field, ionizing the air and creating a conductive path for lightning.
However, within thunderstorms, there are several types. The three main types include single-cell thunderstorms, multi-cell thunderstorms, and supercell thunderstorms. Supercell thunderstorms are the most intense and produce the most lightning.
These have a rotating updraft, which can keep the storm alive for several hours and produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes.
During a supercell thunderstorm, the rotation of the updraft can create a strong separation of positive and negative charges, which can result in a higher frequency of lightning strikes.
Moreover, hurricane are also characterized by strong thunderstorms and produce lightning. While the number of hurricanes which can produce lightning is very low, the frequency and intensity of lightning are extremely high in a hurricane that is accompanied by lightning.
This is also because it has strong updrafts and downdrafts, which lead to a higher strength of charges on particles.
Preventive Measures For Storms With Lightning
During a storm with lightning, it’s important to take precautionary measures to stay safe. These can help prevent a high risk of injury and even death due to the strong electric shock that lightning may cause.
Stay Indoors – The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a building. Being in open spaces, especially those on a higher level, can put you at a higher risk of being struck by lightning.
Keep Away from Windows – During a thunderstorm; lightning can strike the ground and travel through metal wires and plumbing. Stay away from windows, doors, and plumbing fixtures, including sinks and bathtubs.
Do Not Use Electronics – Lightning can travel through electrical wires, so avoiding using electronic devices during a thunderstorm is best. This includes phones, computers, and appliances.
Wait For It To Pass – If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, seek shelter in a low-lying area away from trees, poles, and other tall objects. Try to sit in a position that is as low as possible.
It is best not to move from there for at least 15 minutes after you have heard the last thunderbolt.
Stay Away From Conductive Surfaces – Conductive surfaces include all metallic items. Stay away from bicycles, railings, or any metallic objects in the path of a lightning strike.
Nature is magnificent and very interesting. It is difficult to grasp our head around the fact that so much goes into a lightning bolt that we see for a few seconds. Phenomena that feel simple are always the most complex!