What is lightning?

Lighting is an uncontrolled giant electric spark with tremendous voltage and amperage. It always tries to follow the shortest, easiest path to earth.

But because it has thousands of amperes and millions of volts, it often follows several paths to earth simultaneously.

Lightning is sometimes described as a visible discharge of static charges occurring with a cloud, between clouds or between a cloud and earth.

Such charges always develop in pairs, one negative and one positive. When one develops in one area, another develops in a nearby area.

The potential power depends upon the size of the charge that builds up between these opposite charges which are separated by an insulating air gap.

If and when the electrical potential between the positive and negative charges becomes great enough to puncture the air gap insulator, the negative charges rush toward the positive charges and vice versa.

This action produces a sudden release of energy, heating the air to incandescence to form the intense white spark we call lightning.

Generally speaking, the negative charges accumulate near the base of thunderclouds with opposite charges developing in the upper portion of the cloud and/or near the earth’s surface with its projecting objects like trees, building steeples, chimneys, poles or wires.

Because the potential build-up is greatest on these projecting objects, lightning is more apt to strike there than on larger, flatter surfaces projecting to the same or to a lower level

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