WHAT IS LIGHTNING
Lightning is a fierce occurrence in nature that involves a natural electrical discharge of a very short duration and of very high voltage. This discharge takes place between a cloud and the Earth’s surface. The typical lightning strike is composed of a series of several strokes and restrokes. Normally thunder is associated with this discharge as a result of the intense lightning flash heating the air around it. Lightning is also capable of producing X-rays.
Volcanic ash clouds and forest fires may also produce lightning. This is caused from the static charges in the air that are formed from the dust they create.
The energy that’s in a bolt of lightning is less than that in a liter of heating oil. Although that doesn’t seem like much energy, lightning is still hot enough to fuse silica sand in the ground and form glass. With those facts in mind it may surprise you to know that approximately 50% of people struck by lightning actually survive the strike. That’s some fair odds, although I wouldn’t want to test them.
LIGHTNING AND GEOGRAPHY
So let’s take a closer look at some of the statistics in different parts of the world.
Statistics show that the North American continent receives the most lightning strikes of any continent in the world. The United States receiving 20 million strikes a year and around the globe there are approximately 8 million lightning strikes per day. It’s said that from space you can see the strikes discharging all over the planet like a wonderful light show. I’d love to be able to see that!
Rwanda, Africa has the most lightning strikes per square mile of any other area of the globe. That is why it’s known as the lightning capital of the world.
People residing in Florida, U.S.A. are 34 times more likely to be struck by lightning than the average American. Between 2000 and 2009, 70 people in Florida were killed by lightning. But during that same time frame, there wasn’t a single person in Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington State or Washington, DC that was killed by lightning. That tells you a little bit of the best geological locations in order to avoid a lightning strike!
The Empire State Building is struck by lightning an average of 23 times a year. It was once struck 8 times within a 24 minute span.
SOME EFFECTS OF LIGHTNING
We’ve all heard the famous story of Benjamin Franklin flying his kite. Franklin did this by tying a key to a kite string and flying the kite during an electrical storm. But one misleading fact… He didn’t actually hold the kite string while flying the kite. He tied the string to a post and observed the results from a safe distance. One little known fact is that a French experimenter had tried this antic a few weeks earlier than Franklin. Following Franklin’s experiment, there were actually several fatalities of folks trying to replicate his actions.
Elm and Oak trees are the trees that are most frequently struck by lightning. When hit, the bark blows off of them. This is because the heat from the strike causes the sap to boil violently under pressure and it then explodes.
If lightning were to strike near a compass, the needle would spin wildly due to the electromagnetic field that is generated. So if you’re hiking and you notice your compass going crazy, then you may want to head for cover, it’s possible a bolt may be heading your way.
And of course we have to conclude this with the technical name for the fear of lightning. That would be astraphobia. Lightning is a wonderful and beautiful thing that nature creates, but you have to respect it and use good sense when in a situation that may produce it.