When the Lights Go Out, but Still Light Up the Sky

With summer officially here, many states across the country are launching Lightning Awareness Campaigns. While lightning can occur at any time of the year, thunderstorms tend to be more frequent during the summer months. Couple that with a winter-weary populace ready to enjoy the outdoors, and it’s no wonder that lightning is one of the top weather killers in the United States.

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How often does Lightning Strike?

By: Ron Styne

A bolt of lightning is one of nature’s most fascinating sights. While it is usually followed by the roaring boom of thunder, the flash of a lightning bolt is remembered by all who have seen it.

lighting

In an electrical storm, the storm clouds are charged like giant capacitors in the sky. The cloud’s upper portion is positive and the lower portion is negative. There are three primary types of lightning; from a cloud to itself (intra-cloud or IC); from one cloud to another cloud (CC) and between a cloud and the ground (CG).

Although lightning primarily occurs when warm air is mixed with colder air masses, resulting in the necessary atmospheric disturbances for polarizing the atmosphere. About 70% of lightning occurs over land in the tropics where atmospheric convection is the greatest.

On Earth, the lightning frequency is approximately 40–50 times a second or nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year and the average duration is 30 microseconds.