Lightning is one of the first signs of a monsoon storm.
It's incredibly hot. In fact, five times hotter than the surface of the sun, at an astounding 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightning is simply electricity. It forms in the up and down air currents inside cumulonimbus clouds when water droplets, hail and ice crystals collide with one another.
The positive and negative electrical charges in the cloud separate from one another. The negative charge drops to the bottom while the positive charge stays in the middle and upper parts of the cloud.
Lightning is the result of the build-up and discharge of electrical energy between the positive and negative charged areas. In other words, opposites attract.
Very few lighting strikes will actually make it down to the ground. Strikes usually occur within a single cloud or from one cloud to another. Only about 20 percent of all lightning strikes will hit the ground.
Lightning is very powerful and will seek the path of least resistance, striking whatever is closest to it.
It’s common to think lightning will strike a metal object before it hits anything else, but that’s not true.
It just so happens that most of our tallest objects are metal, like telephone poles, towers on top of buildings and transformers. Lightning will not specifically seek out metal objects. Metal just serves as a good conductor.
If you look up in the afternoon during the monsoon, dark puffy clouds have usually formed to the east.
These are called cumulonimbus clouds, also known as
Those clouds bring us our intense rainfall and dangerous thunderstorms during the monsoon.
They are full of moisture and contain strong air currents, called updrafts and
These clouds have the potential to reach heights of 50,000 feet and can cover up to 200 square miles.
We don’t always see lightning, but we know it’s there when we hear thunder.
Thunder happens when the air surrounding the lighting strike heats up so fast that it causes the air to expand explosively, creating a shockwave that becomes a booming sound wave.
The distance you are from the lightning strike will affect the sound you hear when it strikes.
The closer you are, the more lightning will sound like a sharp crack. The further away you are, the more it will sound like a low rumble. This is because the sound waves reflect and echo off of hillsides, buildings and trees.
Depending on wind direction and temperature, you may hear thunder from 20 miles away.
The sooner you hear the clap of thunder, the closer you are to the storm.
The best way to figure out how far from the lightning you are is to use the five-second rule. For every five seconds that go by between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the clap of thunder, you are one mile away from the storm.
Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.