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Understanding lightning is the first step to managing severe storms

posted 2019-05-14T23:22:27 in Blog

Lightning kills more than 2,000 people per year worldwide. Most of these deaths occur in places without sufficient severe weather alert systems.

The first step in implementing a system to alert your athletes, staff and fans about the possibility of severe lightning strikes is understanding the science and origins of understanding lightning. Earth Networks provides the following information on the various types of lightning and its role as a reliable indicator of storms.

What Is Lightning?

Lightning is the occurrence of a natural electrical discharge of very short duration and high voltage between a cloud and the ground or within a cloud. This violent and sudden electrostatic discharge is accompanied by a bright flash and typically also thunder.

What is Cloud-to-Ground Lightning?

This is a lightning bolt that seems to extend from the clouds down to the ground, tree, or building. These types of lightning strikes make up approximately 20% of all lightning strikes.

What type of lightning makes up the other 80%?

It’s the type of lightning you don’t always see: in-cloud lightning. In-cloud lightning strikes jump from cloud-to-cloud up in the sky.

Total Lightning Definition

The combination of in-cloud lightning and cloud-to-ground lightning is called total lightning.

Total lightning is the complete picture of lightning activity in a region. Total lightning networks detect the most at-risk areas and are able to prompt advanced warnings for thunderstorms and other severe weather events.

Bolt From the blue

While “a bolt from the blue” refers to something totally unexpected it’s also a real type of lightning strike.

This dangerous occurrence is a flash of lightning that extends outward from a storm cell. It can extend so far away from the storm cell that it shows up in an area that isn’t experiencing any other storm conditions. Therefore it can strike unexpectedly somewhere away from the storm where skies are blue and cloudless.

Side Flashes

When lightning is nearby, you could also become a victim of side flashes.

Also known as a side splash, a side flash is a type of indirect lightning strike that occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim.

The National Weather Service describes this phenomenon by likening the victim to a “short circuit” for some of the energy in the lightning discharge.

Lightning as an Indicator of Severe Weather

When you break it down, lightning is the most reliable indicator of storms. In fact, lightning is detected in an overwhelming majority of storm reports within a 30 km radius and 45 minutes before and after a severe weather event. Lightning is present in a vast majority of severe weather reports.

Lightning is a part of most dangerous and destructive weather events. Here are some lightning stats for different types of severe weather:

Start effectively planning for  severe weather.  Contact Earth Networks to receive a free weather safety consultation for your school.

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