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What causes Lightning?

General Knowledge | 9-12 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod

A lightning is a sudden dazzling flash of electricity produced by a thunderstorm.

What happens when you shuffle your feet back and forth on the carpet and then hold a metal door? You get a shock. Why? Static electricity. Lightning follows the same concept.

Ice and water drops in a thundercloud in the atmosphere collide into each other, freeing electrons and creating electrical charge. That’s similar to the electric charge built inside you when you crossed the carpet. The top of the cloud is now filled with protons or positive charges while electrons or negative charges form on the bottom of the cloud. When the positive and negative charges are large enough, there’s a big spark between them- lightning! Most lightning happens in clouds, in thunderstorms.

Why does the electrical charge reach the Earth?

The bottom of the cloud, which has negative charges, seeks the opposite charge. It could find positive charges on anything that sticks out, like a tree, a power pole and a mountain. The lightning bolt of energy released is called a leader stroke.

The leaderstroke hits the object as it travels down a zig zag path and returns back to the cloud. As it hits the cloud again a flash of lightning appears in the sky. The thunder is the sound it makes as it hits the cloud.


  • Lightning is six times hotter than the sun and is yellow in color.
  • There is a lightning strike somewhere on Earth every second.
  • Lightning just lasts for an instant- 1 or 2 microseconds.
  • Lightning has millions of electrical volts.
  • A lightning flash is just an inch wide.
  • A lightning stroke moves at one third the speed of light– 62,000 miles per second! Remember the phrase- moves like lightning?
  • Houses have metal rods or conductors that lead lightning away from us.

For more such interesting General Knowledge articles and videos, visit: General Knowledge for Kids.