It is but considered that lightning and electrical storms are naturally ocurring events in nature where by we tend to be oblivious about it. Yet, its intensity brings about changes which may affect us to our advantage or disadvantage.
Oftentimes, children are scared of the sound of thunder brought about by the blinding flash of lightning. In ancient times, lightning is associated with the wrath of a higher power as is evident with the Supreme god of Olympus, Zeus and the god of Thunder,Thor. To our ancestors, this is a sign that people will be punished for the bad deeds done, being superstitious at that. At present, lightning is associated with powerful mind-created characters often seen on televisions and some flicks.
These beliefs though was not proven to exist in reality but these shows only the notion that lightning is indeed powerful. Now, one would ask what lightning is and why is there a need for lightning and electrical storms to occur? It is not just there as part of nature’s wonder.
What is Lightning?
Lightning is an electrical discharge between two different fields of charges which is formed in electrical storms (Learn More About…; par. 1). It is deemed that lightning has a heat three times greater than that of the sun’s surface. Usually, it is evident when rain clouds are present. Credit on lightning discovery is usually given to Benjamin Franklin with his kite and key experiment during a thunderstorm. This is because he pioneered the first experiment on showing electrical conductance of lightning as opposed to those ahead of him (Lightning; par 2,3,4 &5).. However, hoew lightning came about has many explanations. There are many existing theories on how thunder is formed and which of which is still disputed.
How lightning comes about
Lightning is dtermined to be caused by difference in charges but, how it is generated is what is still uncertain till present. Scientific studies are currently being conducted as to how it is generated. However, theories are proposed on how these charges are accumulated.
One is the Polarization Mechanism Theory which states that falling droplets of ice and rain acquire charges before they hit the ground through electrostatic induction and another theory is the Electrostatic Induction Theory which, on the other hand, states that opposite charges in clouds are separated by energy between them and collision of charges with ice crystals brings about increasing intensity in charges inside the cloud. This increased intensity will soon find release in the form of lightning (Lightning; par. 11 & 12).
The process after electrical charges are acquired and in which it should be released is a rather complex one. Usually in a rain coming, a cumulonimbus cloud is what is known as the source of lightning (Lightning <Mountainnature.com>; par. 2). This type of cloud possesees a strong electrical charge and varies in horizontal difference of the cloud. At the base, the charge is strongly negative while at the top, it is strongly positive. This charges are being separated by an electrical field which is an energy in nature to keep the charges from colliding. The energy in the electric field is directly proportional to the cahrge of the particles between it.
As the charges continue to increase in both sides brought about by collision, so is the amount of energy in the electric field. This intense energy causes the repulsion of the charge in the earth’s surface by the negative charge of the cloud causing the earth’s surface to gain positive charge.What happens next is that the electric field inside the cloud provides a path for the conductance of charges between the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud and the positive charge of the earth’s surface. This path is the air in which it is ionized by the strong electric field of the cloud. This process is known as air ionization. This causes about the formation of the flux line wherein the lightning will travel through. Upon completion of the necessary path, the continuous build up of energy in the cloud causes about the outburst of this energy which travels through the ionized air and the set flux line towards the positive charge. What travels here is what we know as lightning (Zavisa; pt 1, 2, 3 &4).
On the other hand, the thunder that we know of is the sound formed after a lightning. This is caused about by lightning as it heats and expands the air which produces the sound known as thunder. As we all know, light travels faster than sound; reason why we hear thunder late after a lightning (Lightning:The Shocking Statistics; par. 6).
Types of Lightning
There are different types of lightning. The most common of which is the Cloud-to-cloud lightning and the other is the cloud-to-ground lightning. Cloud-to-ground lightning is the most dangerous lightning. This is also the most destructive to properties. This occurs when lightning hits the ground or anything on earth’s surface. Being the most common, it is the most understood type of lightning (About Lightning; pt 4).
Another is the cloud-to-cloud lightning which is also known as intra-cloud lightning. Intra-cloud lightning occurs when lightning transfers from cloud to another cloud or within the same cloud. This type occurs lesser in frequency than cloud-to-ground (Lightning Detection from Space; page 3).
There are many other types of lightning and are named based on optical illusion and appearances. These are ball lightning, heat lightning, bead lightning, sheath lightning, black lightning and many others (Lightning Detection from Space; page 3).
Effects and Damages of Lightning
Lightning, which occurs along with electrical or thunder storms, are light flashes brought about by disturbances among the charges. It is known that lightning replenishes the nitrogen supply in soil in which it hits. But with its great strength, this poses great danger among individuals.
From the span of year ’90 to ’92, lightning killed four people and injured 127 individuals. It averages 80 kills per year in the United States alone (Lightning: the Shocking Statistics; par. 1).
Moreover, lightning kills 55% more people than tornado and 40% more than hurricanes. It causes a loss of 15 – 20 million dollars each year to infrastructures. More so, the US Department of Agriculture reported that lightning causes about 80 % of accidental deaths in livestocks (Dworkin; par. 8).
People are evidently exposed to the hazards of lightning. Damages to building, infrastructures, forest and wildfires, downed power lines and loss of life are just among its effects (Multihazard Risk…; spt. A).
These also causes airplane disasters as it hits a flying craft. It was reported that in 1963, a plane strucked by lightning near Elkton, MD, killed 38 people. It is also noted that plane crashes in 1982 in Kenner, Los Angeles, and 1985 in Dallas, Texas was brought about by lightning. The past decade also took notice of 15,000 fires caused by lightning in the US alone causing wide property damage and loss of 2 million acres of forests (Multihazard Risk…; spt. A).
Evidently destructive by nature, lightning is inescapable. But, there are many precautions which one would be able to take to prevent or minimize the losses brought about by lightning strikes. First is to listen to weather forecasts so that one would not be in the open when an electrical storm came. Second is to manage an electrical conductor in houses or if in a car, better stay in the car as it is a good conductor. Next is to stay out of an open field where you eould be the tallest object to be hit by lightning. Another is to stay calm and stay as low as possible when it is inevitable that electrical storm will come when your outside the safety of your own home. These are few among the possible preventive measures (Protection…; par. 2).
Presently, experiments on lightning deflectors to be placed on planes are being conducted. Spires are also being improved to be placed on skyscrapers. More so, the prospect of harnessing lightning’s power as source of electricity is on its way.
Who knows, one day, we would be able to truly deflect lightnings disastrous strikes to our advantage.
What is lightning
How it comes about
Types of lightning
Effects and damages of lightning (stats) especially in st louis missouri us and midwest
“Learn More About Lightning and Thunder.” 2007. 30 April 2007 <http://sky-fire.tv/index.cgi/lightning.html#sexist>.
“Lightning.” 2005. 30 April 2007 <http://www.mountainnature.com/Climate/Lightning.htm>.
Zavisa, John. “How Lightning Works.” 2007. 30 April 2007 <http://science.howstuffworks.com/lightning1.htm>.
Dworkin, Gerald. “Emergency Procedures During Thunder and Lightning Storms.” 23 February 1998. 30 April 2007. <http://www.lifesaving.com/issues/articles/20thunder_lightning.html>.
“About Lightning.” 2007. 30 April 2007. <http://www.stormchasing.nl/lightning.html>.
“Multi-Hazard Risk Identification and Assessment.” 2007. 30 April 2007.
“Lightning: The Shocking Statistics.” 2007. 30 April 2007 <http://www.wildwildweather.com/lightning.htm>.
“Lightning Detection From Space.” 2007. 01 May 2007 <http://thunder.nsstc.nasa.gov/primer/primer2.html>.
“Lightning.” March 2007. 01 May 2007 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning>.
“Protection Against Lightning.” 2007. 01 May 2007 <http://www.sos112.si/eng/page.php?src=np16.htm>.