Lightning is truly astonishing. It demonstrates nature's genuine strength and awe. We've all witnessed a beautiful and terrifying lightning strike during a storm.
We know that lightning strikes can cause wildfires, but is this due to the high heat generated by the lightning or something else? What is the temperature of lightning?
Lightning temperatures tend to vary from 50,000 to 70,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The rapid release of vast quantities of electrostatic discharge (energy) in a brief period causes these extremely high temperatures.
The temperatures of different colors of lightning will vary. This article will discuss lightning and what affects its temperature.
What Is Lightning?
Lightning is a common occurrence in nature. It occurs when two regions with opposite electrostatic charges come into touch and briefly neutralize each other.
This causes a massive energy release and produces electromagnetic radiation consisting of light, heat, and sound (or thunder).
Lightning is most typically seen during storms, but it can happen at any time and is most prevalent in instances of volcanic activity, such as eruptions.
How Does Lightning Work?
Far inside a storm cloud, ice crystals collide as they travel vertically and horizontally in the tumultuous air.
As they collide, tiny negatively charged subatomic particles called electrons are blown off from ice crystals and transferred towards other ice crystals.
This distinguishes the cloud's positive and negative charges. The cloud's top gets positively charged, while the bottom becomes negatively charged.
The negative charge at the lower part of the storm cloud wants to connect with the positive charge on the ground because opposites attract.
When the negative charge at the lower part of the cloud becomes large enough, a stepped leader (succession of negative charges) rushes toward the Earth.
Positive charges at the earth are drawn to the stepped leader, causing positive charge to flow upward.
A strong electric current transports positive charge up into the cloud whenever the stepped leader and the positive charge interact.
The return stroke refers to the electric current, and it appears to us like a dazzling burst of lightning.
Types Of Lightning
Although cloud-to-ground lightning is a routine occurrence (approximately 100 strike the Earth's surface per second), their strength is immense.
Around 1 billion volts of electricity can be contained in each bolt.
A conventional cloud-to-ground lightning bolt starts when a stepped leader travels at 200,000 mph (321,000 kph) down a channel from the lower part of a storm cloud to the Earth.
Each portion is approximately 150 feet (46 meters) long.
Whenever the lowermost step approaches a positively charged item at around 150 feet (46 meters), it is met with an ascending rush of positive energy known as a streamer, that can travel through a structure, a tree, or even a human.
When the two connect, a visible flash of lightning shoots upward at speeds of 200,000,000 mph, transmitting electrical energy as lightning.
Some varieties of lightning, and among the most common, never leave the clouds and instead travel through different charged locations between clouds.
Intense wildfires, volcanic activity, and severe weather can all trigger uncommon forms.
Ball lightning, a little charged orb that hovers, lights, and bounces along defying gravity and physics, continues to confound scientists.
Positive lightning, which starts inside the positively charged peaks of storm clouds, accounts for around one in every 20 cloud-to-ground lightning bolts.
These strikes are significantly more powerful and destructive than conventional lightning bolts because they reverse the charge flow.
Positive lightning can travel all across the sky and hit out of nowhere and over 10 miles from where it originated in a storm cloud.
Sheet And Fork Lightning
The distinction between sheet and fork lightning might reflect the severity of a thunderstorm. The following are the differences between sheet and fork lightning:
Sheet lightning, also known as intra-cloud lightning, happens within a cloud and illuminates the sky in a sheet of light during the initial flash.
While a spectator on the ground cannot witness this type of lightning strike, the sheets can be seen in the cloud.
When a quick flash of lightning strikes, 2 or more streaks of light branch from the primary lightning strike, this is known as fork lightning.
This occurs either within clouds or between cloud and the ground.
What Is The Temperature Of Lightning?
Over 20 years ago, scientists used the light emitted by a lightning bolt to measure its temperature.
They found that a return bolt of lightning, or a bolt firing up from the earth to a cloud (after a downward passage of energy from a cloud), can reach temperatures of close to 55,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The surface temperature of the Sun is around 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that lightning can indeed exceed the temperature of the Sun.
But what if we went to the center of the Sun? The core can reach mind blowing temperatures of up to 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. That's far more intense than lightning.
The color of lightning also affects its temperature.
For example, purple lightning is one of the more moderate varieties of lightning, having maximum temperatures of around 55,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Purple lightning is relatively common during thunderstorms. When there is a lot of humidity in the air, this color of lightning appears, and it's usually accompanied by a lot of rain.
Although green lightning is marginally safer than purple lightning, it is nonetheless dangerous because it can sometimes reach a scorching 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
White lightning is hotter than green lightning, and generally hotter than the other colors, with temperatures sometimes reaching over 55,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because this sort of lightning is usually the hottest, it is by far among the most deadly colors of lightning.
The white coloring suggests a low moisture content in the atmosphere and a high dust concentration.
As you've undoubtedly guessed by now, the color of lightning indicates how hot it is.
The coldest lightning occurs in the infrared spectrum, which is invisible to the naked eye, while the hottest lightning occurs inside the UV and visible-violet spectra.
You may have observed that lightning can take on various colors at once, which is due to the possibility of multiple discharging events occurring simultaneously.
It could also be a representation of the weather conditions; for instance, blue lightning is frequently a reflection of hail.
Why Is Lightning So Dangerous?
Lightning is a beautiful phenomenon, however, it is also extremely hazardous. Each year, approximately 2,000 victims get killed in lightning storms.
Many more individuals survive the attacks but end up with long-term effects like memory problems, vertigo, weakness, neuropathy, and other life-changing conditions.
Although lightning strikes may result in heart attacks and horrific burns, 9 out of 10 people survive.
An average person has around a 1 in 5,000 probability of being hit by lightning in their lifetime.
The high heat of lightning will cause evaporation of the moisture from the inside of a tree, leading to excessive steam that may cause the tree to fall apart.
Usually, cars are lightning-proof. Tires and metal frames that transfer electric charges harmlessly towards the Earth conduct current.
Many houses have lightning rods and other safeguards that pass the charge from a lightning bolt down through the Earth.
Gutters, plumbing, and other fixtures can potentially ground a house.
Electrical charge can shock you if you touch a water flow or use a telephone line, even when the building you are in is effectively grounded.
A superbolt is a lightning bolt that disperses over 100 Gigajoules of energy, making it 100 times (or more) more destructive than a regular lightning bolt.
That does not, however, imply that they are rare. According to lightning experts, this intensity of strike occurs once per 240 lightning strikes.
What Was The Strongest Lightning Strike Recorded?
The fiercest lightning strike ever recorded was a megaflash. On March 4, 2019, it occurred in the sky of Argentina, South America, and lasted 16.73 seconds.
The longest lightning strike, which travelled 440 kilometers, occurred in Brazil in October of 2018.
Researchers used space technology to follow and monitor both of these impacts, but no official conclusion has been made about which is the strongest of them all.
Where Does The Most Lightning Strike?
Lake Marcaibo of Venezuela draws the most instances of lightning of any location on the planet.
On average, it receives around ten hours of lightning every day for a little under 300 days per year.
Lightning can hit the lake more than 30 times per minute at its peak - which is a strange geographical quirk that makes it exceedingly simple for lightning to strike above the lake.
How To Say Safe During A Lightning Storm
The highest thing that lightning can find is frequently struck.
Isolated objects, such as buildings, trees, telephone poles, play equipment, fence posts, and even humans, are targets.
You are also at significantly greater risk of being struck by lightning in open spaces.
Approximately one third of lightning attacks occur indoors, which may surprise you.
Lightning can infiltrate a structure via telephone wires, water pipelines, and power lines. Follow the steps below to stay safe in a lightning storm.
- Because lightning can create power surges, disconnect any non-essential gadgets if you don't already have surge protector power strips.
- If possible, seek shelter. When you hear thunder, you're already inside the range of the next ground flash; lightning can strike up to ten miles from the storm's center.
- Because landlines can conduct electricity, avoid using them unless absolutely necessary.
- If outside, stay away from water and choose a low-lying open area away from trees, poles, and metal objects.
- If you know that you are in a vulnerable situation, kneel close to the ground with your hands on your knees and your head tucked between your legs.
- Try not to touch anything that could conduct electricity.
- If your hair begins to stand on end, immediately adopt the previously mentioned posture.
- Stay away from downed electrical lines and broken wires.
What To Do If Someone Is Struck By Lightning
When someone has been hit by lightning, dial 911 right away. Check to see if touching the person is safe.
If the threat of lightning strikes continues, transfer them to a secure place.
Begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the individual is not breathing or has no pulse, and continue until help comes. To prevent hypothermia, wrap the victim in a jacket or blanket.
Symptoms Of Being Struck By Lightning
A lightning strike can cause the following symptoms:
- Thermal burns
- Blowing apart or burning clothing
- Breathing issues
- Memory issues, confusion, and disorientation
- Irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest
- Changes in personality
- Coma or loss of awareness
- Temporary hearing impairment
- Pain, numbness, or tingling
- Weakness or immobility
- Vision issues
If you or someone else has been struck by lightning, always seek medical assistance. Lightning can cause permanent harm and disability, even if the impact appears mild.
Lightning is an astonishing phenomenon which can reach seriously high temperatures that can even exceed the temperature of the sun.
That’s why it can also be extremely dangerous, so it’s important to take precautions and know what to do in the event of a dangerous lightning storm.