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The science behind positive and negative lightning strikes

todayJune 6, 2024 3

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — While our team of meteorologists track storms, our equipment tracks lightning data.

KELOLAND sees a variety of weather during the summer, from general thunderstorms to severe weather, we have the technology to track it.

You may have seen this box appear on our radar images. It is understandable what the meaning of total strikes is, but what is the purpose behind showing how many positive and negative lightning strikes there are?

It is all in the science. In the beginning stages of lightning, ice particles and water droplets collide together to create charges.

From here, the charges will scatter throughout the thunderstorm. Positive charges sit in the upper parts of the cloud and negative charges are around the cloud’s base.

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A negative lightning strike is the most common type of lightning strike. The negative charge is transferred to the ground where positive charges are. This means negative lightning has a shorter distance to the ground and produces about 300 million volts of electricity.

Even though all forms of lightning are dangerous, the positive lightning strike tends to be the most dangerous. It occurs in less than 5% of all strikes but it can pack a punch. There is a longer distance for the positive charges to get to the negative ones on the ground. This type of strike can use up to a billion volts of electricity to do that, almost four times more than negative strikes.

Regardless of the voltage, lightning can occur up to 25 miles away from its parent storm. It is important to head indoors when you hear thunder because it can be the first.. and last hazard to leave.

Written by: The Dam Rock Station

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