Lightning Facts

Lightning is a powerful electrical discharge made during a thunderstorm. The electric current is very hot and causes the air around it to expand very quickly, which in turn makes thunder. See the fact file below for more information about lightning.
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  • Lightning is a discharge of atmospheric electricity which is triggered by a buildup of differing charges within a cloud. The result of the buildup is a sudden release of electricity which causes a bright flare of electricity,
    followed by a thunderclap. An average instance of lightning lasts about a quarter of a secondand consists of 3-4 strikes, and thunder can be heard about 12 miles away from the source.
  • Lightning bolts travel at speeds of up to 60,000 miles per second, and the average length of a single lightning bolt is 2-3 miles.
  • The temperature of a typical lightning bolt can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit which is 5 times greater than the temperature of the surface of the Sun.
  • Scientists suspect the cause of lightning may be directly related to the presence of ice crystals in the cloud.
  • There is a saying that “Lightning never strikes in the same place twice”. This isn’t true. Lightning can strike many times in the same location.
  • The irrational fear of lightning is known as keraunophobia. The fear of thunder is termed brontophobia.
  • Lightning strikes the Empire State Building in New York City about 23 times a year. The tallest object in an area is the most likely target for a lightning strike. Most tall buildings have lightning rods attached to their structure. The rod attracts the lightning and sends its energy directly into the ground.
  • Glass forms when lightning strikes into sandy soil. After a storm you can find strips of glass in the sand.
  • Every year, the Earth experiences an average of 25 million lightning strikes during some 100,000 thunderstorms. That’s more than a hundred lightning bolts per second.
  • Lighting is one of the most beautiful, powerful, unpredictableand, and dangerous of all natural phenomena. The energy contained in a single lightning strike can power a 100 Watt light bulb for 90 days.