The science behind thunderstorms and lightning strikes

Posted on October 30, 2015 by heightw in Blog Entry

Lightning is formed by an electrical discharge of electrons that travel from one place to another at a very fast pace. These electrons move at such high speeds that they superheat the surrounding air. Thunderstorms are created by strong rising air currents called updrafts. They create winds of 50mph upwards and they rise several miles into the air to form Cumulonimbus clouds. Warm updrafts and cooler downdrafts create turbulence within thunderclouds that lead to the interaction of tiny water particles and microscopic ice crystals known as hydrometeors.

The repeated collisions of the ice and water create small and large particles. The varied movement characteristics of the particles then create electrical charges within the clouds. The movement of air inside the clouds combined with the effects of gravity cause the water particles to separate. The tiny particles are carried to the top of the cloud by updrafts, and the larger water and ice particles are carried to the bottom by gravity. This separation of smaller positively charged particles and larger negatively charged particles causes an electrical imbalance that can potentially send millions of volts across the storm cloud. In much the same way gravity directs water back to the sea, the laws of physics demand the neutralisation of this electrical difference. As currents travel across the air to correct the imbalance of negative electrons created within the storm cloud, lightning is formed.

Lightning will occasionally pass between separate thunderstorm clouds as inter cloud lightning. This particular form of lightning is only dangerous to aeroplanes and presents no danger to people or properties. The danger to humans and structures emerges when the negative charge in a storm cloud gains enough strength to travel to earth, in the form of cloud to ground lightning.

Lightning protection systems are the ideal way to protect structures, properties and people from lightning strikes, and this is something we excel at. Our team of steeplejacks can install comprehensive protection systems to help keep your property safe, including lightning rods. As these rods are made from highly conductive materials, they can successfully diminish the risk of structural damage, internal voltage strikes and injury to the people in your property.

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