Curiosities

Difference between lightning and lightning

The thunderstorms are one of the weather events that has attracted the attention of human beings since ancient times, and interest resulting from admiration to fear and superstitions of all kinds. However, current science is more than capable of explaining each of the effects and phenomena that these marvelous natural spectacles cause. It is easy to hear many people use the terms lightning and lightning interchangeably, but in reality they are not synonymous and they are different things.

Difference between lightning and lightning – summary

In summary, these are the main differences between lightning and lightning :

  • Lightning is the electrical discharge that forms between clouds or from a cloud to the ground.
  • Lightning is the source of lightning and thunder.
  • Lightning is the flash of light produced when lightning strikes. It is a giant spark that illuminates the area of ​​the current during the electrical discharge.

With regard to meteorology, the RAE describes lightning as an electrical spark of great intensity that is produced by the electrical discharge that can occur between two clouds or between a cloud and the earth. Thus, these are the definition of lightning and its characteristics :

  • Lightning is about the electrical discharge itself . This discharge occurs when there is a difference in charges between two clouds or between a cloud and the earth.
  • The difference is produced because of the ice particles that are inside the storm clouds, colliding with each other, producing friction. These shocks cause the charges to separate, so that the positive charge remains in the cloud, while the electrons are formed below it, on the ground. The electrical charge of the ground tends to accumulate and concentrate in the ground around objects or structures that protrude, such as trees, mountains or even living things. When the concentration is sufficient, the positive and negative charges connect , and the lightning discharge occurs .
  • Lightning travels at a speed of around 440 km / s, although it is known that they can reach peaks of up to 1,400 km / s and have an average length of around 1,500 meters, although some much greater ones have been recorded. The longest on record occurred in October 2001 in Texas, with a length of 190 km.
  • The discharge of lightning has enormous power , being able to generate powers of up to one billion watts, comparable to that of a nuclear explosion.
  • The enormous amounts of energy released give rise to the flash known as lightning .
  • Thunder, which also occurs at this time, occurs when lightning raises the temperature of the air around it above 28,000 ° C. This hot air expands and expands due to its increase in temperature, but when it comes into contact with the surrounding cold air mass it contracts again sharply. The shock waves resulting from this effect give rise to the sound we call thunder , extremely loud and deafening at short distances. Thunder travels at the speed of sound, which is 340 m / s, much lower than that of light. Thanks to this, it is possible to estimate the distance at which a storm is located by the time difference between when we see the lightning and when we hear the thunder.

Lightning types

Not all rays are the same. Depending on the circumstances in which they are formed and their behavior, several types are distinguished. These are the most common types of rays :

Cloud-to-ground lightning

They are the easiest to observe with the naked eye and the second most common type. It originates in a cumulonimbus-type cloud and is discharged on the ground, which can cause serious damage where it does. There are different types of lightning that go from a cloud to the ground :

  • Pearl Beam : It is a beam of longer duration than usual, which is separated into a whole chain of short sections.
  • Staccato ray : a ray of very short duration, which takes the form of a single flash or flash of great light intensity and quite branched.
  • Forked lightning : are those rays that branch or branch their route in an easily visible way on their descent. It is more of a way of calling them than a formal type.

Cloud to cloud lightning

They are the most frequent and common. It can occur both between different clouds and within the same cloud, the latter being in fact the most common type of lightning.

Ground-to-cloud lightning

Although rare to see, lightning can ascend from the ground into a cumulonimbus-like cloud, instead of descending, as usual, or being created between or within clouds.

As we have said, lightning is the glow of light created by the enormous release of energy that lightning causes. It is born practically at the same time as the thunder, both because of the lightning, and although its vision is very spectacular, the lightning itself does not have major consequences, since the electric discharge is in the lightning and the lightning is only the light spark that shines brightly.

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