Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Understanding lightning bolts - Severe Weather Awareness

Lightning in KS taken by Haley Habiger
Lightning is still one of the most fascinating features of weather and the 2nd leading cause of death from weather events. There's no way to forecast where lightning will strike, but generally speaking, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck. And when you consider that lightning is actually 5 times hotter than the sun, you don't want to put yourself in a position to be hit. 

So what causes lightning? There is a buildup of charges in the cloud and with objects on the ground, and in order to equalize them, lightning has to happen. Air is such a poor conductor of electricity that when a lightning bolt happens, the air immediately surrounding it heats up VERY quickly. The expanding air around the bolt is what we eventually hear as thunder. Generally speaking, if you are more than 10 miles from a lightning bolt, you don't normally hear the thunder.

On average, who has the most lightning? 
Florida typically has the most because of their year-round warm season. Kansas isn't far behind though with roughly 50-60 thunderstorm days a year.

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