How lightning is created?

What is Lightning? | How lightning is created?

  • How lightning is created? | You are about to read about this in an upcoming paragraph. First, we have to know what lightning is?
  • Lightning is a natural hazard that happens by discharging static electricity generated in storm clouds. Some of them are damaged buildings and few kills or injure people and animals, either directly or indirectly by causing fire and explosions.

Well known Lightning Myths

  • How lightning is created? |In a few centuries back, people believed that there was a connection between lightning and gods. It can be proved by many paintings, Carvings and sculptures found throughout the world. These are the most popular lightning gods and goddess.
  • Early Greeks believed that lightning was a weapon of Zeus and the thunderbolts were invented by Minerva the goddess of wisdom.
Zeus – Greece
Zeus – Greece
Minerva - Greece
Minerva – Greece
  • Scandinavian mythology referred to Thor, the thunderer. As per the beliefs, Thor was the foe of all demons and he tossed lightning bolts at his enemies.
Thor - Scandinavia
Thor – Scandinavia
  • In the pantheistic Hindu religion, Indra was the god of heaven, lightning, rain, storms and thunder. And there are stories about god Maruts who used the thunderbolts as weapons.
Indra – India
Indra – India
Maruts - India
Maruts – India
  • Impundulu is the lightning bird-god of the Bantu tribesmen in Africa. Even today their medicine men go out in storms and bid the lightning to strike far away.

    Impundulu – Africa
    Impundulu – Africa
  • Nigerians have a belief of Ọya as the goddess of winds, lightning, violent storms, death and rebirth.

    Oya – Nigeria
    Oya – Nigeria
  • The Navajo Indians have beliefs about the great power of lightning in their healing rituals. And they believe in an association of lightning with wind, rain and crop growth. Their ancient sand paintings show the lightning bolt as a wink in the Thunderbird’s eye.

    Thunderbird - North America
    Thunderbird – North America
  • Raijin is a god of lightning, thunder and storms in Japanese mythology and Shinto religion. Raijin is often depicted with a fierce, frightening face and a muscular figure with gravity-defying hair. He is surrounded by Taiko drums that he plays to create the sound of thunder. Raijin holds large hammers in his hands that he uses to play the drums. In some cases, Raijin is portrayed with three fingers which are said to represent the past, present and future.

    Raijin – China
    Raijin – China
  • Chaac is the name of the Mayan rain deity. With his lightning axe, Chaac strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain. Chaac corresponds to Tlaloc among the Aztecs.

    Chaac - Guatemala
    Chaac – Guatemala
  • Tlaloc is a member of the pantheon of gods in the Aztec religion. Aztecs worshipped Tlaloc as the supreme god of the rain, earthly fertility and water. He was widely worshipped as a beneficent giver of life and sustenance.

    Tlaloc – Central America
    Tlaloc – Central America
  • In Slavic mythology, Perun is the highest god of the pantheon and the god of the sky, thunder, lightning, storms, rain, law, war, fertility and oak trees. His other attributes were fire, mountains, wind, iris, eagle, firmament horses and carts, weapons (hammer, axe and arrow), and war. He was first associated with weapons made of stone and later with weapons made of metals.

    Perun - Slavia
    Perun – Slavia
  • Painting found from an Australian cave proves a belief of ancient people associated with lightning and its great power.
Lightning related paintings found in Australia
Lightning related paintings found in Australia

Lightning related paintings found in Australia

  • The Moslems also attributed lightning and thunder to their god. The Koran says “He, it is who shows you lightning and launches the thunderbolts.”

Popular Researches about lightning

  • How lightning is created? |In Europe, the first methodical approach to the studies of atmospheric electricity was reported in 1752 by Thomas Francois Dalibard (1709-1799) and his collaborator Philipe De Lor of France. By drawing sparks from an iron rod that is insulated from the ground, they proved that thunderclouds are electrically charged. The scientists in Italy also showed that sparks can be drawn from insulated metal rods under overcast conditions, hence verified the presence of electric charge in thunderclouds.

    How lightning is created?
    Leclerc and Dalibard’s Lightning Experiment, 1752
  • Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) in America originally proposed the above illustration with his sentry box experiment just after the success of the two French scientists, but not knowing that.

    How lightning is created?
    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
  • In this experiment, Franklin said that a person insulated from the ground and connect himself to a long vertical metal pole can induce a spark between his fingers and the ground metal walls of the sentry box (Where the experiment was carried out) by keeping the finger close to the wall when a thunderstorm is passing by.
Principle of the sentry box experiment
Principle of the sentry-box experiment
How lightning is created?
Ancient drawing of sentry-box experiment
  • Instead of carrying out this experiment, he conducted the famous kite experiment which was equally dangerous under thunderstorm conditions. On a highly overcast day, he flew a kite in the presence of his 21-year-old son. They could see sparks leaping from the thread of the kite to a bunch of keys that franklin was holding in one of his hands. Both Franklin and his son were lucky not to get a lightning strike.

    How lightning is created?
    Franklin’s kite experiment
  • With this kite experiment, Franklin confirmed the electrical nature of thunderclouds, which laid the basis of the explanation of the lightning. Further experiments on cloud electricity and lightning were conducted in the mid-eighteenth century, by Franklin and his collaborators. The invention of the lightning protection rod, named after Franklin, was one of the greatest achievements during this period.

Sources of Lightning

  • Clouds play a major role in the lightning formation. There are many types of clouds in the sky, but few types produce lightning. Most of the lightning are originated in Cumulonimbus clouds.
Cumulonimbus cloud
Cumulonimbus cloud
  • Apart from the clouds, there is some natural and man-made phenomenon which can be produced lightning. They are:
Ash cloud of volcanic eruptions
Ash cloud of volcanic eruptions
Tornados
Tornados
Sandstorms
Sandstorms
Snowstorms
Snowstorms
Mushroom of nuclear explosions
Mushroom of nuclear explosions

Lightning by its region

  • Thunderstorm activity in a region depends on its geographic location. In tropics and oceanic regions thunderstorm activities are higher than that is in temperate regions and mid-country regions. Mountainous regions usually record higher thunderstorm density.
Geographic region vs Lightning
Geographic region vs Lightning

How lightning forms?

  • How lightning is created? |When strong direct sunlight beats down the earth, updrafts are formed. Later, these updrafts can be developed into a Cumulonimbus cloud. In a Cumulonimbus cloud, electric charges are generated due to the collision of tiny ice particles and Hail pallets influenced by cool air flows in mid-air.
  • The electric charges are distributed with positive and negative charges roughly separated in the portion of the thunder cloud. Negative charges concentration at the bottom of the cloud or the cloud base. However, cloud charging and charge separating mechanisms are not yet to be fully understood.
  • To counter these negative charge concentration, positive charges concentrate on the earth surface. Such an electric charge distribution generates a large Electrostatic field between the thunder cloud and the earth. It is nearly between 5-30 kV/m. As the electrostatic field develops, an advanced discharging phenomenon increases as steps from the cloud base to the earth. These phenomena are called the stepped leader. Through which the voltage levels are reached approximately 100 million Volts.
How lightning forms
How lightning forms
  • As the stepped leaders come closer to the earth the ground base feels the sense to counter the approaching stepped leader. Thereby objects on the ground surface generate rising streamers from them. A stepped leader reaches its final stage by connecting with the nearest rising streamer among the many generated from the earth. At this moment a lightning strike occurs.

Types of Lightning Flashes | How lightning is created?

  • There are two main types of lightning flashes. They are:
Ground Flashes
Ground Flashes
Cloud Flashes
Cloud Flashes
  • Again, Cloud flashes are divided into 3 types.
Flashes occur withing one cloud
Flashes occur withing one cloud
Flashes occur in between clouds
Flashes occur in between clouds
Flashes occur from cloud to air
Flashes occur from cloud to air

Lightning Facts | How lightning is created?

  • A lightning strike carries a current in the range from 2 kA to 200 kA.
  • The model for the waveform of the current produced by lightning effects is given by the 8/20µs wave. From 8µs, current increases up to 90% of its amplitude and the time to decrease up to 50% of its amplitude is 20µ.

    Lightning Waveform
    Lightning Waveform
  • A lightning flash heat up the air approximately up to 30,000 K. Because of this phenomenon someone may see the lightning but won’t hear the thunder. The reason is, heated up air carries a large portion of the sound pressure of the thunder with them.Lightning and Thunder
  • The total time of a lightning flash is about half a second.
  • The rapid expansion of air in the channel of the lightning flash due to the sudden rise of the temperature generates a shock wave. Which is called thunder, and that shock wave reduces to a sound wave with distance.

Thanks for reading.

If you have any doubts or needs further information regarding this topic, please comment below or send me an e-mail ([email protected])

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