Essay by TINAJunior High, 9th grade April 2003

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The Electrifying Weather

Lightning is known as nature's fireworks. It is a sudden electric discharge. Also recognized as a spark of electricity between a cloud and the ground.

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 colder than freezing. Mostly these conditions are met in the summer.

Lightning occurs around 15,000- 25,000ft. above sea level. It originates when the raindrops convert into ice, and are carried upwards. The lightning charges move downward in 50yard sections called step-leaders. It takes place in less than ½ a second. When lightning strikes it heats up the air, and this causes the air to expand. This sudden expansion of the air results in sound waves, which we hear as thunder.

The temperature can reach up to 18,000 degrees (F).

Most of the lightning in the United States happens in Tampa Bay, Florida. This is because of the moisture content in the atmosphere is close to the surface, and the surface temperature is high. Along with Tampa Bay, there is a high activity of lightning in the Gulf of Mexico, and Texas. The longest lightning bolt was 118 miles long, which occurred in Texas. Usually long bolts originate in front of squall lines. The average bolt is around 60 miles long, or more. Lightning bolts that don't strike the surface are called Cloud Flashes.

Safety is a very important factor, because lightning is very dangerous. Lightning can kill or cause fatal injury in people. The lightning current can branch off to a person from a tree, fence, pole, or other tall objects.