The Science of lightning

The skies are dark and the clouds are thick. A bright bolt of light suddenly flashes through the sky. A loud clap of thunder follows. Thunderstorms, happen often on Earth. But much about lightning still remains a mystery, even to the scientists who study it.

Lightning is an electric current that is born inside of a cloud. When tiny bits of water and ice move around inside of a storm cloud, they bump into each other. All of these collisions cause the cloud to fill with two different types of electrical charges. Positive molecules cluster at the top of the cloud, and negative particles at the bottom. When these negative charges gain enough power and pull, the cloud shoots a quick bolt of energy towards the positive particles on the ground below. Sometimes the bolt flashes horizontally, attracting to the positive particles of another nearby cloud.

Just try not to blink! You might miss the whole event. An average bolt of lightning travels more than 220,000 miles per hour and reaches temperatures greater than 53,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

To remain safe during a storm, Liu recommends staying indoors. People on the road should stay inside of their cars. If no car or shelter is available, try to avoid trees and other tall objects outside.

(With agency inputs)

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