10 Important Facts About Lightning

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Lightning storm

Lightning may look beautiful but what you may not know is the hidden dangers behind this natural beauty.

Read below for ten important facts about lightning, you might just be surprised.

 

1. It’s unpredictable

You might think that with modern hi-tech equipment, we can predict nearly everything when it comes to lightning. But this assumed fact isn’t true.

Lightning is a natural force which makes researching natural organic strikes hard, meaning we can only predict certain occurrences when it comes to lightning strikes.

 

2. Lightning strikes the Earth more than 100 times per second

It is estimated globally that around 2,000 lightning storms are active at one time. This means that, on average, more than 100 strikes are happening per second.

This seems shocking (excuse the pun), and to an extent it is. The strikes results in a potential of 200,000 to 500,000 volts between the surface of the earth and the ionosphere!

 

3. The Empire State building is proof you can protect against lightning

On average, the Empire State building in New York is struck by lightning 100 times a year. You would think with the power behind a single strike, the building would show signs of damage. But it’s not the case.

Lightning hitting Empire State Building in New York
Photo by CMMooney on Flickr, via CC License

If you have a proper lightning protection system, you can prevent the damage caused by lightning.

 

4. Only 10 – 20% of lightning hits the ground

Despite more than 100 strikes happening per second, only 10% to 20% of lightning is known to reach the ground. This is because the majority of lightning occurs in the storm cloud itself.

 

5. Don’t underestimate the power of lightning

It is estimated that the peak power of a single lightning strike is a staggering 1,000,000,000,000 watts! So what would be the total power of a large thunder storm you ask?

Well, a large thunder storm is believed to contain enough energy to power the whole USA for 20 minutes.

 

6. Lightning does strike twice

It’s a myth that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice — the truth is lightning can strike the same place multiple times. As previously mentioned, the Empire State building is struck more than 100 times a year, proving that lightning can — and will — hit the same place more than once.

 

7. The most common place to be hit by lightning is…

It has been discovered that the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela are the places on the planet where lightning strikes the most.

Where lightning strikes most on the planet
Source: NASA Earth Observatory

 

8. A lightning flash doesn’t hit continuously

A common misconception is that a single lightning strike is continuous, but  this isn’t true. Instead, a single strike of lightning is a series of short bursts of ionised air called stepped leaders.

 

9. Feeling hot, hot, hot.

Did you know that the air around a single lightning strike is more than five times hotter than the surface of the sun?

The air is, on average, superheated to about 20,000 degrees Celsius. Now that’s hot!

 

10. Don’t get struck by lightning

It’s very rare to be struck by lightning, but it may not be as rare as you think — the odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is only 1 in 3,000.

Each year in Britain, approximately 30 people are hit by lightning! Luckily, most survive the encounter.

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