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Name: Ron
Status: Educator
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A 


Question:
Does lightning originate in the sky and just go down ( or is there an opposite charge that goes up?)



Replies:
Dear Ron-

Lightning is a fascinating phenomonon, one not totally understood by scientists. What HAPPENS during the initiation of a lightning stroke is fairly well recognized, and, thanks to high speed cameras, has even been caught on film several times. Lightning is responsible for more deaths each year (approx 200 in the U.S. annually) than either tornadoes or hurricanes. Many people are not aware of the hazard that lightning presents when they are outdoors in a thunderstorm.

You are correct in your presumption that there strokes that originate from the ground in the direction of the cloud, as well as strokes that originate within the clouds.

What is not totally understood is how the charge separates within the cloud, that leads to the electric field differential that triggers the formation of the conductivity channels within the atmosphere.

Here are some excellent websites that explain how lightning forms. Some are pretty basic, and a couple are more advanced. You might check these out.

Basic...

http://nimbo.wrh.noaa.gov/Portland/kidtopics.html

http://thunder.msfc.nasa.gov/primer/primer2.html

more detailed...

http://www.howstuffworks.com/lightning.htm

Wendell Bechtold, Meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO



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