"The flash of light that accompanies a high-tension natural electric discharge in the atmosphere," as described in the dictionary. Although this states what lightning is, it is not very informative. It doesn't explain to us the nature of lightning, the dangers involved, or how to protect ourselves from injury due to lightning.
What is Lightning
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service (NOAA) it is as follows:
- The action of rising and descending air within a thunderstorm seperates positive and negative charges. Water and ice particles also affect the distribution of electrical charge.
- Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas.
- The average flash could light a 100-watt light bulf for more that 3 months.
- Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.
- Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 but could be reduced by following safety rules.
- Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors.
- Most lightning casualties occur in the summer months and during the afternoon and early evening.
- The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder.
- Many fires in the western United States and Alaska are started by lightning. In the past decade, over 15,000 lightning-induced fires nationwide have resulted in several hundred million dollars a year in damage and the loss of 2 million acres of forest.
People have been killed by lightning while:
- standing under a tree
- playing soccer
- riding on a lawn mower
- fishing in a boat
- talking on the telephone
- mountain climbing
- bike riding
- loading a truck