• Question: What causes thunder and lighting?

    Asked by melissamartin123 to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 22 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by chocoholiclea.
    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 20 Jun 2011:

      Lightning is nature’s way of balancing electric charges. In big storms, there is a lot of energy in the clouds, which results in separation of electric charge. The bottom of the clouds has a very negative charge, and the top of the cloud has a very positive charge. We don’t know the exact way this happens – it might have something to do with ice moving in the clouds.

      The negative charge in the cloud causes a build-up of positive charge on the ground. That means that electricity is going to want to flow, if only it has a path to flow through. All of this potential energy causes the air to separate into positive and negative particles (called ionisation). “Leaders” of ionisation come from the clouds, and “streamers” come up from the ground. When a leader and a streamer touch, you have a complete electric circuit and BOOM! you have lightning as the electricy rushes through the circuit. The air gets super-heated from the lightning, so you get a shockwave which is the thunder.

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 20 Jun 2011:

      Thunder is the sound of lightning.. we see lightning first then hear the thunder. we hear thunder after lightening as light travels faster than sound.. FACT:count the seconds between thunder and lightening and the number of seconds is about the number of miles the storm is away…

      So what causes the lightening.. so its similar to static electricity, Within a storm cloud there is alot of water and alot of dust and other particles and these are being bashed around agaist each other in the wind.. This movement builds a charge across the cloud..(just like s static balloon).. the cloud then has a build up of charge and this needs to be released… via lighenting which is a surge of high charge (voltage) to the ground…

      Have you ever touched a TV screen just after you turn it off and you can sometimes see a spark jump… thats simialr a build up of charge escaping…

      Hope that helps 🙂

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 21 Jun 2011:

      I think these guys got this first. Do you like thunderstorms Melissa? I think they are pretty cool – if a little scary…

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 22 Jun 2011:

      Hello again melissa! Drew and Julia have great explanations here!! I hope you got your answer!