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Interesting Facts About Lightning

Photo by RoBBiE 6265
Photo by RoBBiE 6265

Would you like to know some interesting facts about lightning? Well, it’s a beautiful sight to see all right, but it’s also rather dangerous and unpredictable, and can be quite impossible to predict. Today scientists all over the world are gathering information on lightning, monitoring the temperature, and even creating it artificially in laboratories. This article will tell you some interesting facts about lightning.

Did you know that each year, our earth experiences almost an average of 25 million lightning strikes? This is during an average of 100,000 thunderstorms! That roughly translates to almost a hundred lightning bolts per second. Makes you quake in your shoes, doesn’t it? You would also be surprised to know that when lightning strikes, thunder can be heard from about 12 miles away from the starting point. The average length of a bolt of lightning is almost a quarter of a second – and there are 3-4 strikes usually.

Lightning also travels at a frighteningly high speed – approximately 60,000 miles per second and the average length of a single lightning bolt is 2-3 miles. Plus, the temperature can get really high too! It might reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun! a single lightning bolt usually travels through twisted paths in the air – these can be as wide as the breadth of a finger, or as wide as six or ten miles. That’s quite a range, isn’t it?

Photo by ViaMoi
Photo by ViaMoi

Lightning bolts are also knows to have tremendously high amounts of energy. For instance, the energy in a single lightning strike can be used to provide power to a 100 watt light bulb for almost 90 days! And if you think that the myth “Lightning never strikes the same place twice” is true – think again, lightning has been known to strike the same place many times. And usually, we think that when a tree gets hit by lightning, it burns right to the ground, but that doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes, they can take direct hits, and still not get burnt – what happens is basically the electricity passes over the wet surface, and then gets transferred to the ground, where it gets neutralized.

Have you seen “Sweet Home Alabama”? If you have, then you know about the scene where Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas dig up a glass ball from the sand, after the lightning has struck. Well, that is actually based on fact, as glass does really form when lightning strikes sandy soil. If you ever walk on the beach right after a storm, you might actually be able to dig up bits of glass. And if you’re out in a storm and you’re scared of the lightning, you would do well to know that if your clothes are wet, the lightning will harm you less.

In March 1991, there were more than 15,000 lightning strikes in a six-hour continuous storm that raged over Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. During that time, the skies had constant lightning. The Empire State Building, in New York City, gets hit by lightning almost 23 times a year. Do you think our earth is the only planet to be subject to lightning? Well, think again. Planets like Venus, Uranus, Jupiter and Saturn do get hit by lightning too.

Photo by mudpig
Photo by mudpig

Lightning has some very interesting beliefs from history. For instance, the ancient Aztec civilization believing that lightning and the dead went hand in hand, and the lightning split the earth, and went into its very depths. And in the Middle Ages, people believed that the ringing of the Church bells expelled evil spirits. Thunder and lightning were both considered diabolical, so during a thunderstorm, monks continuously made efforts to ring bells. No wonder that most of the victims hit by lightning during the Middle Ages were bell-ringers! Are you feeling sorry for them?

There are many people out there who have an irrational fear of lightning. This phobia is called keraunophobia. Would you like to know how many people are killed by lightning in the United States every year? Well, approximately 200. That’s quite a staggering number. Florida is known to be the Deadliest State, because it has twice as many lightning victims as compared to other states.

Photo by jhueilee
Photo by jhueilee

Do you think you will get hit by lightning? Well, the chances of that happening are 1 in 7,000,000. That’s about the same possibility as you dying from falling out of bed. But there are ways you can avoid getting hit by lightning. For instance, a major thing you should know about is that you should never ever talk on the phone while there is a storm raging outside. Cell phones attract lightning, and in fact, almost 1% of all lightning causalities in the United States were due to people talking on corded phones inside their homes during a thunderstorm.

But you would be pleased to know that at least 71% of those struck by lightning survive. Those who die usually die of cardiac arrest. But you should know that the survivors sometimes have to deal with serious psychological and health problems like insomnia, loss of memory, loss of sensitivity, or even constant pain in the body.

Photo by wikimedia.org
Photo by wikimedia.org

There are many weird stories about lightning doing the rounds, which scientists have not been able to explain. For instance, there was this park ranger called Roy Sullivan, who between the years of 1942 and 1977, was struck by lightning a total of seven times! In 1942, his thumb and leg were burned, in 1969, his eyebrows were burned, and in 1970, his shoulder was burned. Then in 1972, his hair was burned, in 1973, it was his leg, and then in 1976, lightning targeted his ankle. Then finally in 1977, his chest and abdomen were burnt. Finally, after much depression and many psychological problems, in 1983, he committed suicide. Bizarre, isn’t it? Wait till you hear about Martha Maiko.

Martha Maiko was a Bulgarian woman, in 1935; she took in an American tourist named Randolph Eastman, who wanted to take shelter from the storm in her house. They were married a week later, but after just 2 weeks, he succumbed to a hit from lightning. Maiko then married again, a man from France called Charles Mort. When they went on a trip to Spain, he was struck by lightning. Maiko went back to Sofia, and started undergoing therapy to deal with her depression. She ended up marrying her doctor. They tied the knot in Berlin, but when they were en route to France, lightning hit the car and her husband died on the spot. Maiko didn’t remarry again!

Photo by iceman9294
Photo by iceman9294

Want to know some more facts about lightning? Well, there are basically two types of lightning – the first type is positive. The second type is negative, and the negative strikes are more common that the positive ones. Lightning, as stated before, releases huge amounts of energy. For instance, the energy released by the strikes can generate nitrogen oxides (from the un-reactive nitrogen present in the air). In fact, these nitrogen oxides are quite beneficial for plants, which use them for growth.

Lightning, over the years, has been subject to fears, curiosity, and many question. We do find it beautiful, but it would be suitable to remember that it can be very dangerous, so people should learn to be careful during thunderstorms, when lightning strikes.

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