Severe Weather Awareness Week: Lightning formation and lightning safety


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Lightning is one of the most deadly weather phenomenons.

Lightning forms when warm air rises to create a storm cloud. Ice particles and water droplets collide, causing positive and negative charges to develop inside the cloud. Eventually, these charges separate.

When they meet up, lightning is created.

Negative and Positive Lightning

Negative lightning is the most common form, in which the bottom of the cloud is negatively charged. That negative charge is transferred to the positively charged ground.

Positive lightning, although rarer, also exists. Positive lightning makes up less than 5% of all strikes. Positive lightning occurs when a positive strike is transferred from the cloud to the ground.

‘When thunder roars, go indoors!’

A common phrase meteorologists use when discussing lightning is “When thunder roars, go indoors!” This is because you are not safe outside in a thunderstorm! Lightning can also strike miles away from a parent storm.

It may not even be raining where you are and you could be struck by lightning. This is often called a “bolt from the blue” and occurs with positive strikes.

Lightning also strikes water and metal very frequently. This is why during the summer it is recommended that you get out of pools, lakes and oceans when thunderstorms are nearby.

Additionally, lightning tends to strikes tall objects, like trees and the uprights on a football field.

Make sure to take thunderstorms seriously and do your best to be in a safe place during a thunderstorm!

(This is one of a series of stories by the WATE 6 Storm Team for Severe Weather Awareness Week.)


Flooding and flood safety

Tornadoes and tornado safety

How hail forms and hail sizes

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