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From THE SCIENCE WAY:

Lightning: Shockingly Cool

Different coloured strikes like these can occur

Different coloured strikes like these can occur

Lightning – it’s bright, it’s flashy and it’s hot. But have you ever REALLY thought about lightning? If you haven’t, you have come to the right place! If you have, well… you may pick up some extra information on the way!

Although this may sound weird, lightning is essential for life on earth. Lightning creates “nitrates” which among other things, fertilizes soil, helps plants grow and builds DNA and proteins in our body. When a lightning strike occurs the lightning races down to the ground at extreme speeds. During this process it splits nitrogen molecules in half. The nitrogen immediately wants to bond with another atom and usually does so with oxygen, (this creates nitrates). With approximately 40 strikes per second all over the globe, (over 3 million strikes a day), a lot of nitrates are made so we have no worry of running out of this vital resource.

How is lightning created you ask? Well… lightning is created when water vapour is evaporated and then condensed inside a cloud in the form of ice crystals and water droplets. High winds in the cloud cause the droplets and crystals to collide with each other at high speeds. These collisions creates static electricity. When the electricity charge becomes extremely high it breaks the air molecules and speeds to earth in the form of a bolt that is 3 times as hot as the Sun’s surface.

Lightning bolts are mainly bright white but can be tinged with any colour of the rainbow eg. red, orange or green. Lightning bolts never have exactly the same colour and it is possible for one part to be a different colour to the rest. The different colours are caused when ” air molecules scatter wavelengths to create different colours in light.”

Although being struck by lightning is a scary thought, it doesn’t happen very often. In Australia people have 1/1.6 million chance of being struck by lightning. Even if you are hit, you don’t necessarily die. Another concern is that lightning will cause a big bush fire. The chances of a fire starting by lightning strike is approximately 10%, not much!

I hope I have satisfied your hunger for knowledge even if only for a little bit!

See lightning from space in this great little video clip:

http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/nves.sci.earth.nitrate/lig...

 

Lightning References

http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/?quid=1271

http://www.colourlovers.com/blog/2008/02/04/bolts-from-the-blue-the...

www.australiangeographic.com.au

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Watch the little video at the end "see lightening from space". Fascinating.

What a good explanation! I'd read that nitrogen was introduced with storms but the article didn't explain why.

Good wasn't it. Helps explain the rush of growth in my garden after the recent storms - the water being a big part fo the cause.

Great info Lissa! 

I never knew!

Mind boggling stuff isn't it :) So basic to the health of life on earth, and yet I'd heard this before.

..."never" heard this before...

I'll just bring this article to general attention again as it's that time of the year when we start to get lightening storms which, as it turns out, are incredibly important to plant growth.

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