Question

Where does lightening come from, clouds, ground or both?

Asked by: Jason

Answer

First of all, to be vague, it comes from both but starts in the cloud.

A combination of air currents and moving ice and water particles in the cloud causes positive and negative charges to separate. Put simply, the positive charges gather near the top of the cloud and the negative charges gather near the base.

Once an appreciable negative charge has built up on the bottom of the cloud, a 'shadow' is created on the ground below where a positive charge is induced. The conditions are now right for a lightning strike.

Once the charge on the cloud is big enough, a small path of negative charge makes its way towards the ground. Once it gets close, a path of positive charge leaves the ground and heads up to meet it.

Answered by: Corey Taylor, Undergrad, Florida Institute of Technology

Search

Loading



Click here to get
a FREE ride with Uber!


Click here to
sign up for Birchbox






Science Quote

'There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.'

Albert Einstein
(1879-1955)
Science Sidebar | Science Education Articles
10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Interested In Science

Young children are natural scientists: they ask questions, pick up sticks and bugs outside, and are curious about the world around them. But as they get a bit older, many kids gradually lose their interest in science. They might see it as just another task at school, something that doesn't apply to their lives. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, so here are ten ways you can remind your kids that science is everywhere. Most of these are fun for adults, too! Continue reading ...

Top Selling

Here are our physics & astronomy bestsellers:
Deluxe Water Rocket Set
Mini Plasma Ball
KonusScience 5 Way Microscope Kit
3D Magnetic Field Tube
Alnico Bar Magnet - 6 inch Long
Scorpion, Ant, Wasp and Flower Bug
Solar Radiometer
Weather Station 4M Kit
Periscope
Cherry Wood Levitron

Sponsors

USC University of Southern California Dornsife College Physics and Astronomy Department McMaster University Physics and Astronomy Department