This Article is About
air particles
lightning speeds
earth and sky
forest fires
high humidity
sound waves
A Great Mystery - Lightning
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A Great Mystery  -  Lightning

At any moment, there are about 1800 thunderstorms happening around the world. About 100 lightning bolts strike the earth every second. Lightning is one of the most powerful forces of nature. It sets off raging forest fires, destroys buildings, kills plants, animals and people. But it also balances out the natural elecrtricity of the earth and sky.

Lightning bolts travel at "lightning" speeds of up to sixty thousand miles per second. That's six times faster than our fastest spaceships. When a lightning bolt strikes, the electrical energy quickly changes into heat. Temperatures in the path of a lightning bolt can reach as high as fifty thousand degrees Fahrenheit, five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The intense heat alongside the lightning channel makes the air expand explosively and then contract as it cools. The quick back and forth movement of air particles produces the sound waves call thunder. From close up, we hear thunder as a single sharp crack. From further away, thunder seems to roll or rumble in the distance. When a lightning bolt flashes, we see it immediately, but thunder takes about five seconds to travel a mile. That's because light is about a million times faster than sound.

The kind of lightning that scientists know the most about is the kind that flashes between clouds and the ground. Lightning that strikes the ground is the easiest and photograph and measure. It also causes the most damage to buildings and living things. Lightning can happen during snowstorms, hailstorms, volcanoes and tornadoes. Most lightning comes from large clouds called thunderheads. Another name for a thunderhead is a cumulonimbus cloud.

An average of 150 to 200 people are killed by lightning in the United States. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. The high humidity and heat produce almost daily summer thunderstorms and three times the number of lighning strokes of any other place in the country.

Safety in a Thunderstorm

If you are caught in the open in a lightning storm stay away from high ridges, open meadows, telephone poles, wire fences, rails, open vehicles, golf clubs, tops of hills, open areas, flat fields, tractors and take off shoes with metal cleats. If you are swimming or boating get out of the water immediately. Lightning travels easily through water. If you are in an open area, spread out-with several yards between each person. When you are camping, be sure to choose a safe place to pitch your tent. If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, lightning may be about to strike. Crouch down and bend over your knees right away. Do not lie down., because the ground can carry a charge.

Just to be safe, unplug TV's, stereos and computers before the storm begins. After the storm starts, use the telephone only for emergencies. Stay away from metal objects such as faucet handles and screen doors. Wait until the storm is over to do dishes or take a bath.

Lightning remains a mystery that we are only slowly beginning to understand.


Street Talk

Nice one barb. I like your site.

Reply
  about 8 years ago
  

thanks Shawn

Reply
  about 8 years ago
Golfspice  

Interesting facts about the awesome power of lightning. "An average of 150 to 200 people are killed by lightning in the United States" Over what period of time?

Reply
  about 8 years ago
  

Hi Golfspice, these people are killed in the United States every year by lightning

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Barbara, good article! What a great mystery lightning is. Wise to include ways to reduce the likelihood of getting struck. Here's another - I read somewhere (sorry not remembering where; world records type stuff) that a gentleman was struck by lightning and lived to tell of it six times. Apparently he was wearing shoes with rubber soles that melted a hole and let the lightning pass without bodily harm. Think it was golfing or something. Whatever it was, you'd think he'd learn to avoid it after getting hit once! Or twice! Or thrice! :-)

Reply
  about 8 years ago
  

wow, what an awesome story. thanks, Cynthia

Reply
  about 8 years ago

thanks:-) My brother works maintenance on a golf course. Same place the last 22 years; no commute so he returns home for lunch. I think that's how it stuck so much! He's good at paying attention to what's happening... and the past few years they've had a Noisy Electric-Storm-Detector on top of his expertise.

  
  about 8 years ago

My husband grew up in Florida . . . he remembers the lightening well:)

Reply
  about 8 years ago
  

Hi Penny, the rainy season has started early in Florida this year, we are having afternoon thunderstorms daily.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

I like this article!

Reply
  about 8 years ago
  

thank you

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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