• Question: How is lightning formed?

    Asked by Ki to Jim, Scott on 18 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Jim Barrett

      Jim Barrett answered on 18 Mar 2016:

      Lightning is just static electricity that’s stored up in clouds (in the same way it’s stored when you rub a plastic rod to make it charged 🙂 )

      When the electricity discharges, that’s lightning

    • Photo: Scott Lawrie

      Scott Lawrie answered on 18 Mar 2016:

      The water droplets in a cloud are rising and falling all the time due to the air currents and pressure differences. This jostling about means the water drops rub against each other a lot (friction). This friction transfers electrons to and fro, so the water gets charged up with static electricity. Over time you get an accumulation of positive charge at one end of the cloud and negative charge at the other end. If the stored charge gets too large you get an electrical breakdown: a lightning bolt ⚡!