How Fast Is Lightning?

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Lightning is a discharge of static electricity that has accumulated as a result of collisions between ice particles in storm clouds. The return stroke of a lightning bolt travels at approximately 100,000 kilometers per second, which is one-third the speed of light.

The characteristics of lightning change slightly with atmospheric variables such as temperature, pressure and humidity. The flash is the only aspect of lightning that travels at the speed of light, which is approximately 186,282 miles per second or 670,616,629 miles per hour.

The discharge of static electricity can result in many different types of individual lightning bolts. The types of lightning bolts are variations of cloud-to-cloud lightning, cloud-to-ground lightning, ground-to-cloud lightning, forked, heat, sheet and ball lightning.