Phillip’s Weather Trivia: What process leads to lightning?
This is a challenging one about what leads to lightning
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - North Carolina is known for active thunderstorms with frequent lightning, especially during the warmer months of the year. Do you have any idea what process leads to lightning forming in a cloud?
Hint: Condensation leads to raindrops, but isn’t the mechanism responsible for separating charges, so don’t go with that one.
Even on the hottest days, the freezing line is within 5 miles of the earth’s surface. As raindrops are carried up with the rising winds in a cumulus cloud, they reach below freezing temperatures. The outer part of the raindrop freezes first. When the inside freezes, that part expands and bursts the outer shell off into many tiny pieces of ice.
These tine pieces of ice carry a positive electrical charge and are carried higher in the cloud. The left behind piece of ice is heavier and falls to the lower part of the cloud where they typically melt. So, now the upper part of the cloud is positive while the lower cloud is negative.
This charge difference can grow great enough to cause lightning. The lightning can either be within the cloud, from cloud to another cloud, from cloud to ground, from ground to cloud, or even cloud to clear air. - Phillip Williams
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