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What are some interesting lightning facts for kids?

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Quick Answer

Every second, 100 lightning bolts strike the surface of the Earth from a cloud. These incidents account for about one-fourth of all the lightning that takes place. Lightning is due to an imbalance in electrical energy in the atmosphere and releases heat.

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Full Answer

Lightning occurs within a single cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. When the electricity discharges, it produces both light and sound. Light waves travel much faster than sound waves, creating a delay between when an observer sees lightning and hears thunder. The most common type of lightning occurs between two clouds, but lightning that strikes the ground has the greatest potential to cause harm to humans and property.

Rain, sleet, hail and snow particles within the cloud collide to produce a negative electrical charge near the bottom of the cloud. At the same time, the Earth becomes positively charged. When the difference in charge is large enough and the cloud comes close enough to the ground, a person or a building, the energy discharges just as static electricity jumps from a person's finger to a metal doorknob. Lightning prefers the shortest path, so it usually strikes the tallest object in an area.

The heat produced by lightning discharge is intense. The flash heats the air temperature around the bolt to five times that of the surface of the sun. This intense heat creates the light that becomes the lightning bolt.

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