In order to kick off 2016 properly, we have decided to share something quite fascinating and cool for our first post of the year!
Lightning bolts and the thunderstorms that create them are constantly and exhaustively researched all around the world. Although we have a good general understanding of how a Lightning Strike forms, it’s general characteristics, and when conditions make a storm or strike likely… Even world-class scientists do not know nearly everything about lightning and how it works!
For example, we generally do not have any concrete evidence regarding what makes a lightning bolt hit a specific spot on the earth, as opposed to any number of other spots nearby.
Because there is still so much unknown about lightning, there some researchers who record thunderstorms and lightning activity with ultra-slow motion video cameras in order to try and learn more about what happens during the actual lightning event. The hope here is that by slowing down what is generally a “blink-of-the-eye” event, we should be able to pull out much more detail about how lighting bolts form and the sequence of events going on to make each event happen.
One source for this type of video is ZT Research (Vimeo: ZT Research), which has some incredibly detailed and interesting slow-motion video segments which capture multiple lightning strikes. In fact, in the video example above you will be able to see how each lightning bolt ends up choosing a single path at the last second, from many hundreds of potential paths that show up during formation of the lightning strike.
As the energy within the cloud builds up to a point where it is enough to form a discharge (i.e. a lighting bolt!), multiple small “leaders” begin to descend from the cloud… As the leaders travel closer and closer to the ground and form multiple potential pathways for the lightning strike, ultimately there is a leader which wins the race and makes a connection between Cloud and Ground….Once this connection is present, the main lightning strike and energy flow occurs as the main lightning bolt flashes (sometimes more than once) as the hundreds of kiloamperes are transferred. This is the main Lightning Bolt!
After the main Cloud to Ground stroke, there is usually also a return stroke which follows the same path and actually initiates from the Ground and is effectively an energy transfer in the opposite direction of the original lightning bolt, from Ground and Cloud in this case!
Check Out Some Other High Speed Lightning Strike Videos Here:
- National Geographic Lightning Formation Video – 11,000 Frames-per-second! (YouTube)
- Discovery Channel – Video Showing Stepped Leaders in Detail (YouTube)
- Discovery Channel’s Upward Lightning Formation Video (YouTube)
Learn more about Lighting here:
NexTek knows lightning, we have over 25 years of experience in designing world-class lightning and surge protection solutions. See our Coaxial Lighting Protection Product Page to learn more about protecting your radios, antennas, and systems from lighting-related damage.