Weather Whys: Lightning

Weather Whys

There are probably a dozen questions you may have about weather on a regular basis. 

Meteorologist Amber Wheeler is here to answer a burning question she gets quite often in this week’s Weather Whys.

Being that it’s now Spring and thunderstorms are a little more plentiful, we hear thunder and see a ton of lightning on a regular basis. So I got a question from a very young inquiring mind,  

 “excuse me, I was wondering how does thunder crackle? Thank you Ms. Weatherologist” 

This really is such a great question! What makes that thunder sound? To answer Dylan’s question, we first have to talk about what causes lighting.

It’s basically an electrical charge that creates something like a spark in the atmosphere. 
Inside a thunderstorm there are tiny ice crystals that rub up against each other. They cause an electrical charge to build up within the cloud. Just like everything on this planet, that energy is looking for a way to neutralize… so the negative charge is looking for a positive charge. 

In this case of cloud to ground lightning, (amber change) the negative charge is in the clouds… (amber change) this naturally creates a positive charge on the ground. When the build up is strong, (amber change) they meet to release that energy. That’s the lightning. 

What we hear is all that pressure and the heat from that lightning moving through the air very abruptly… that’s what makes that thunder sound. The lightning is so hot and so powerful that we can actually hear it pushing through the air particles! 

If the sound is more of a rumble, then the storm is further away. The louder and crisper the crack, the closer the storm is to us. 

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