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.
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.