Why lightning occurs

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With Utah’s severe weather season right around the corner, it really peaks from the middle of May through the middle of June. We will see an abundance of lightning as we head into warmer months.

On average the United States sees about 51 lightning deaths a year, and in Utah, lightning is our number 1 weather-related killer.

The pinpoint weather team’s Alana Brophy explains in the attached video.

It begins with thunderstorms, with rising warm air from the surface interacts with the colder atmosphere above it and storm clouds begin to form. This can occur anywhere in our state and region.

Within the clouds, a flurry of activity is occurring. Ice crystals and water droplets collide, which after these particles take a hit, we get positive and negative charges. Positive charges will move to the top of a storm cloud while negative charges hang at the bottom of the cloud.

At the Earth’s surface, additional positive charges will interact with the clouds above it allowing for an environment ripe for lightning. Energy from the negative charges at the base of the cloud will meet the energy from a positive charge creating a flash effect known as lightning

Lightning occurs to balance the electrical build in the clouds, or between the clouds and ground.

Lightning can also be very deadly. The energy from one strike can power 150 million light bulbs and its temperature is about 50,000 degrees, hotter than the surface of the sun! Most of the nation’s lightning occurs in the Southeastern United States due to their seasonably warmer, more humid climates but every state can experience thunderstorms and lightning. 

Electricity will always follow the path of least resistance meaning that a lightning strike will target tall objects, areas of open space and bodies of water.

As you head out into the great outdoors this spring and summer season, remember to keep your eyes to the skies and know the weather report before you go.

For Utah’s most accurate forecast visit abc4.com/weather.

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