Brief Description of Lightning

Essay by Deadsexy3High School, 12th gradeA, March 2006

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Thunderstorms are where lightning and thunder occur. They are formed when a cold front moves in and meets a warm front. Also cumulonimbus clouds produce thunderstorms. Cumulonimbus clouds are formed when there is enough upward motion, and enough moisture in the air to produce a deep cloud that can reach temperatures lower than freezing. Mostly these conditions are met in the summer.

Lightning occurs between 15,000- 25,000 ft. above sea level. A lightning stroke is a brief but large current of negative charge that travels from cloud to ground along a "wire" of air molecules that have been ionized or ripped apart. The lightning stroke originates in the thunderstorm cloud where charges somehow become separated(there are many theories that try to explain the actual creation of this charge separation, but no one really knows what pulls the charges apart in a thunderstorm cloud). Since the ground beneath the cloud has far fewer negative charges on it than the bottom of the cloud, there is an attraction between the ground and the bottom of the cloud.

As these electrons are transferred, they bash into air molecules that are in their way, breaking the molecules up and creating more charged fragments. The lightning charges move downward in 50-yard sections called step-leaders. It takes place in less than half a second. When lightning strikes it heats up the air to a temperature that can reach 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and this causes the air to expand. This sudden expansion of the air results in sound waves, which we hear as thunder.

Most of the lightning in the United States happens in Florida. This is because of the moisture content in the atmosphere is close to the surface, and the surface temperature is high. Along with Florida, there is a high activity of lightning...