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facts about lightning

Thunderous Facts About Lightning

When the heavy rain starts to pour, you better stay inside your room and protect your ears from all the thunderous sounds made by lightning. You might have read various stories about people getting thunderstruck, and that’s not something you’d want to experience. Even though Marvel movies made lightning cool because of Thor, it’s still a good thing to avoid any injuries caused by lightning. 

Lightning is a natural occurrence that usually happens during heavy rains. It happens due to two electrically discharged regions in the atmosphere and the ground. Then, it causes a huge release of energy. There are three places in which lightning may occur: between two different clouds, inside a thundercloud, or between a cloud and a ground. 

As a natural occurrence, people have been talking about lightning for a long time. That’s the reason why there’s a lot of misconception about lightning that you should know. Let’s take a deep dive about lightning and take a look at some of the facts about it.  We hope that after you read this, you’ll be able to differentiate all the facts and myths about lightning. 

1. Which One Should Be Considered as the First Ever Photo of Lightning?

Which One Should Be Considered as the First Ever Photo of Lightning?
Lightning Image (Source: petapixel.com)

We have mentioned countless times that lightning is a natural occurrence that has been around us since the beginning of time. However, pictures of lightning haven’t been immortalized until 1847, by a man named Thomas Martin Easterly. The photo is taken in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Unfortunately, the original plate to the photo has been lost or destroyed. What’s left of it is just the cabinet card of the photograph, stored in Easterly’s cabinet. That’s the reason why William Nicholson Jenning’s photo is often regarded as the first “surviving” photograph of lightning. Taking a photo of lightning in his era is very hard due to technological limitations. In fact, it took several attempts until Jennings successfully captured the lightning. 

2. Ancient Theories are so Unique And Different to Our Current Knowledge

With all the modern technologies and studies, we have come to a better understanding about everything related to lightning. We have mentioned that lightning is usually caused by two electrically discharged regions in the atmosphere that in turn release a huge amount of energy. We also know various types of lightning and how to avoid them. But did you know that in ancient times, the understanding of lightning differed so much from what we now know?

Early Greeks believed that lightning was a weapon used by the thunder god Zeus, and thunderbolts were invented by the goddess of wisdom Minerva. Fast forward to a few hundred years, a philosopher named Aristotle began theorizing that lightning and thunder occurs when there is a collision between two clouds. It’s closer to the knowledge that we know now, but it further proves that our knowledge of lightning has become very advanced compared to ancient times.  

3. Lake Maracaibo is Regarded as Lightning’s Favorite Spot

Out of all the places in the world, Lake Maracaibo holds the record as the spot with the highest concentration of lightning. The so-called capital of lightning is located in Zulia, Venezuela. It serves as a major shipping route between the ports of Cabimas and Maracaibo. It is also regarded as one of the oldest lakes on earth, dating to about 20-36 million years old

Now let’s talk about the reason behind the high lightning concentration in Maracaibo. Each year, South America’s largest lake receives an average of 233 lightning flashes per square kilometer. Most of the lightning just flashes with no thunder. According to NASA, Maracaibo has a unique geography and climate condition, making it ideal for thunderstorms. 

4. There’s Different Kinds of Lightning

We’re used to seeing the lightning that falls onto the ground. However, it will be ignorant for us to consider that there’s only one type of lightning. In fact, there’s some types of lightning that you should know. The most common lightning that you know is the cloud-to-ground lightning bolts. Each bolt is able to contain up to one billion volts of electricity. You wouldn’t want to get anywhere near it!

There’s lightning that wouldn’t strike the ground too. This lightning won’t leave the clouds. Instead, they travel within charged areas in the cloud. Besides the two types of lightning, there’s other unique and rare forms and shapes of lightning that can also be caused by forest fires, volcano eruptions, or snowstorms. 

5. Lightning Destroys and Also Grows Plant!

Well, how is that possible, you may ask. Lightning has the power to destroy plants. You may have seen photos or videos in which lightning destroyed a tree in the forest. The process is actually quite magnificent and interesting. When lightning comes into contact with a tree, the liquids inside it will turn into gas instantly and cause the plant to explode!

Miraculously, all those destructive powers can also be converted into something productive. It may kill a tree, but it also provides a chance for other plants to grow. A lightning strike will generate electrical energy that will separate nitrogen atoms in the air. These will allow plants to absorb it. Hence, plants will thank lightning for speeding up the growth process. 

6. Contrary to People’s Belief, People Normally Survived a Lightning Strike 

Even though lightning may cause a severe injury to people, it might not be as fatal as many people thought. The National Weather Service reported that during the span of 1989 to 2018, 10% of victims who got struck by lightning were killed. The USA has also reported an average of 43 lightning fatalities per year. However, it doesn’t mean that you will be safe when you get struck by lightning. Be careful and be safe!

7. Various Damages Can Be Done to the Human

LIghtning Damage People Image (Source: www.boredpanda.com)

Do not ever try to get hit by lightning. It may prove costly and it will injure you greatly. The extent of the injury will vary, depending on different circumstances. Usually, you will be unconscious after getting struck by lightning. Other common injuries that may occur includes: broken bones, burns, muscle pains, and hearing loss. 

That’s just the common injuries when you’re struck by lightning. Some of the more severe injuries that you can get are: behavioral changes, heart attack, and even stroke. Although the odds of getting thunderstruck are 1 in 15,300, there’s still a chance that you may experience it. Therefore, make sure that you are well protected during bad weather. 

8. High Fatality Rate in Certain Area, Especially Agricultural Area

It is unfortunate to look up at news about lightning fatalities. Even though the death rate in the USA is relatively low, reports show that there are still a lot of people who died because of lightning strikes, especially in rural areas. The Atlantic pointed out that India can be used as an example. There, the fatality ratio is two people in 1 million. 

There’s a lot of things that factor into the reason behind the high death ratio. In Asia, there’s a lot of people who work as farmers, and it is quite a dangerous place to be, especially in the rainy season. If we take a look back at the United States’ history during the 1800s and early 1900s, a lot of people who died because of lightning strikes are people who worked in similar lines of job. So, there you go! 

9. Beware of the Dry Lightning

Contrary to popular belief, lightning is able to strike at random places that you do not anticipate. When you’ve noticed clouds and rain in a certain place, don’t ever think for a second that you’re safe from the lightning even if the sky is clear in your area. Make sure to find some protection immediately after you hear some thunder. The term is better known as dry lightning.

Dry lightning often happens in the western part of the United States. It’s a cloud-to-ground occurrence that happens without being accompanied by any rainfall. It happens during high temperatures or weather front, But the rain quickly evaporates before dropping to the ground. That’s the reason why you need to be extra careful!

10. A Miraculous Thing! Lightning Can Heal Blindness

(Source: www.sightsavers.org)

Even after all the frightening effects that lightning poses, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, a blind man once claimed that his ability to see is recovered due to lightning. Edwin Robinson is the guy that we’re talking about. He was blinded for nine years due to a truck accident. But in 1980, he got struck by lightning when he was walking around a tree. After some time feeling dizzy, he said that a miracle happened and he could see it once more. However, this special case became a controversy, and doctors all around the world remained skeptical about the event. 

11. Lightning Has Its Own Dedicated Field of Study

If you’re really interested in learning more about lightning and thunder, then you perhaps should take up fulminology. Fulminology aims to deep dive about lightning, thunder, and anything related to natural occurrences. A person who studies fulminology will be studying more about the cause of lightning, how to avoid it, and learn more about statistics related to lightning. We surely need to applaud their dedication towards studying lightning!

12. The Correlation Between Helicopters and Lightning

Helicopter Image (Source: verticalmag.com)

Lightning often falls to pointy and tall objects like trees. That’s the reason why people use lightning rods: to help direct lightning to a safer place. However, recent studies show that helicopters can create a concentrated lightning strike. Choppers generate negative charges that can turn into lightning when they pass through clouds that contain positive charges. That’s why it is usually forbidden to fly on a helicopter during heavy rains. 

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