Flashes of lightning are stunning to look at, and many incredible photos of lightning strikes have been captured over the years. The Ancient Greeks believed that lightning was a sign from the king of the gods, Zeus, but of course there is a scientific explanation behind this natural phenomenon.
There are around 6,000 flashes of lightning happening every minute across the world, so if you want to know more about the science behind this weather, read on.
There are around 1,000 thunderstorms occurring at any given minute on earth, so the chances of spotting lightning are high depending on your location!
Thunderstorms are caused by the rapid rise and fall of currents of air, and the friction from this then leads to electrical charges building up within a cloud. Drops of water and ice carrying negative electrons then fall to a lower part of the cloud, which causes a build up of negative charge.
At the same time, a positive charge is building up near the top of the cloud, and these positive and negative charges seek to create pathways in order to reach each other and neutralise. Once contact is made, a spark forms which neutralises the charge, and these many sparks build to form lightning, as it hops between the positive and negatively charged areas.
The air around the negative charge rapidly heats up as it moves down, with sparks reaching a temperature of around 20,000 degrees Celsius. This extreme temperature heats up the surrounding air to create a shockwave, aka lightning.
Once the cloud’s negative charge has built up enough energy, it looks for a pathway to the positively charged ground below. The current will be drawn towards a good conductor of electricity, such as a tall building or tree.
The negative charge sends out a feeler known as a ‘stepped leader’ which is made up of lots of invisible negative charges. As it nears the ground, a positive stream of charges reaches up to meet it, creating a channel which causes the lightning to become visible. A lightning bolt looks like one continuous line to the untrained eye, but it’s actually made up of a series of short bursts. A lightning charge is very powerful, and contains a whopping 30 million volts!
Lightning is fascinating, but it can be dangerous, so it’s important to have the right protection for your buildings. Rodells Ltd in St Albans have decades of experience installing and maintaining professional lightning protection for UK businesses, including lightning conduction installations, risk assessments and earthing repairs. For more information about how we can protect your buildings, give us a call today or visit our website.