A cloud-to-ground lightning bolt. Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
Whether you love a good storm, or you’re not a fan, most storms have a very interesting, yet dangerous aspect to them — lightning.
Lightning is unpredictable, and can strike without warning. Lightning strikes can be cool to look at, but can also be deadly. The bolt itself doesn’t carry a temperature, but the air around it can reach up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (the Sun has a temperature of just under 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so it can be pretty hot).
While many people do survive a lightning strike, a rash or what is known as Lichtenberg figures — fractal patterns of lightning strike scars, tree-like in appearance — are left on the body.
The sound of thunder, which can be quite loud, is actually the pressure wave generated by the splitting of the air molecules. So, the closer to the strike you are, the louder the sound, and the faster you will hear it. But, did you know lightning can actually travel 10 miles away from the storm itself?
The skies could be clear as day, and yet lightning can still hit if a storm is off in the distance. This is why experts tell us: “When thunder roars, head indoors.”
You can still be struck by lightning while inside if you are next to a window, or are using an electronic device connected to power, but the chances are smaller rather than being outside.
Lightning is always looking for the quickest route to get to the ground, so it will usually strike the tallest object in the vicinity. The Empire State Building in New York is struck about 23 times a year (lightning can strike the same place twice). And many people think lightning only strikes from the cloud to the ground. But there are other times when it stays inside the cloud itself, and there are other times when lightning will stretch out and jump to another cloud nearby.
For more information about facts and myths about lightning, you can visit: https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-myths
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