It's unmistakable, lightning is one of the most incredible natural phenomenons and one that scientists are still learning about. It's a common occurrence during a summer when the heat of the day is broken by strokes of lightning. Worldwide it's estimated lightning occurs 50 to 100 times a second. The greatest concentrations of lightning strikes are in center Africa, the Himalayas, and south America. Lightning is often seen flashing between storm clouds and the earth. The bursts of light are pure electricity. Scientists don't fully agree on what actually causes the electrical charges to be disbursed, but it's generally thought that lightning often occurs withing its down drafts and up drafts of thunderstorms. Lighter particles moving towards the top clouds become positively charged, while heavier particles heading towards the bottom become negatively charged. When the positive and negative charges grow larger enough, lightning is released between these regions. Most of lightning takes place within the cloud, but some strikes the earth in bolt flashes. In these cases, the charge escapes the cloud, making a branching path reaching for the ground. The energy of the lightning strike contains hundreds and millions of volts and last only a flash of a second. What seems to be a single flash is actually a series of return strokes of electrical energy reaching back up into the clouds. The path reaches temperatures of around 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme heat creates the booming thunder clouds as excessive pressure with the lightning path expand at supersonic rates on return strokes. In the U.S., lightning occurs most often in Florida, its hot moist climate is perfect for creating thunder clouds, which produce lightning. But lightning is a deadly natural phenomenon, taking nearly 100 lives of a year on average in the U.S., more than hurricanes or tornadoes. During an electrical storms, experts warn that people should seek shelter inside a building or herd the top of automobiles, and if caught in the open, avoid high ground and isolated trees. Lightning is a powerful force of nature and one to be cautious of.
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