FACTS

·  Benjamin Franklin is credited with inventing “lightning rods.” His famous kite experiment dates back to 1752.

·  The fear of lightning is known as keraunophobia.

·  Lightning is the #2 weather related killer around the world.

·  The average lightning strike is six miles long.

·  Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or end of a storm. 

·  There are about 1,800 thunderstorms around the world at any moment.

·  The temperature of a typical lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the Sun.

·  Around the world there are 100 lightning strikes per second, or 8, 640, 00 times a day.

·  Lightning affects all regions,

·  Lightning kills as many as 2,000 people worldwide every year.

·  Approximately 1% of all deaths in the U.S. attributed to lightning are a direct result of people talking on a land line (i.e., corded phone) during a severe thunderstorm.

·  A typical lightning bolt is only about the size of a Quarter to Half-Dollar, but lightning looks much wider than that because of the bright light.

·  Approximately 20% of persons struck by lightning die as a result of their injuries.

·  Lightning often strikes the same place twice! The Empire State Building was once used as a lightning laboratory since it is hit nearly 25 times per year.

·  While metal does not attract lightning, most lightning burns are caused by objects such as metal coins or necklaces being heated up and causing the burn.

·  Many survivors of lightning strikes report that immediately before being struck their hair was standing on end and they had a metallic taste in their mouth.

·  Annually there are more than 10,000 forest fires caused by lightning.

·  Lightning is underrated as a risk because it usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property like tornadoes or hurricanes. As a result, lightning generally receives much less attention than the other weather hazards.

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What Causes Lightning?

There is still some debate on exactly how lightning forms, however, scientists do know what conditions are needed to produce lightning.  Generally lightning begins with the water cycle.  Moisture accumulates in the atmosphere causing clouds to form; these clouds essentially contain millions of water droplets and ice crystals suspended in the air.  As evaporation and condensation continues with the water cycle, these beads collide with other moisture and ice in the air.  During these collisions electrons are knocked off of the rising moisture, thus creating a charge separation.

Ice is often central to the development of lightning.  As stated earlier, with the rising and sinking within a storm there are various collisions among particles.  Positively charged ice crystals generally move to the top, while negatively charged ice particles drop to the middle and lower parts of the storm.  Here massive charge variations (electrical differences) develop.

The “Charge Reversal Concept” states that falling graupel (small ice pellets) become negatively charged while small supercooled cloud droplets that strike then bounce off the graupel become positively charged.  Cloud temperature can affect the “charge sign” of the graupel. If the temperature is below -10C then the graupel takes a negative charge and the supercooled cloud droplets take a positive charge.  The supercooled cloud droplets rise on updrafts to the top of the storm while the graupel pellets fall and melt in the lower regions of the storm.

Overall, lightning occurs when there is charge separation in a cloud. As a thunderstorm grows, electrical charges build up within the cloud, causing charge of the opposite potential to gather at the ground below.  The attraction between positive and negative charges can grow strong enough to overcome the air’s resistance to electrical flow.  The cloud begins sending down charges called stepped leaders in the atmosphere.  Racing toward each other, they connect and complete the electrical circuit.  Charge from the ground then surges upward at nearly one-third the speed of light and we see a bright flash of lightning.

 

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A family has been left temporarily homeless after lightning struck the roof of their house in Greater Manchester, setting it alight.

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