All you need to know about lightning – Causes, prevention, and more

When the water vapour moves near the cloud, the low temperature leads it to condense.

Even as the earth is considered a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. (Photo: Reuters)

Lightning in India kills nearly 2,000 to 2,500 people every year. Recently, nearly 17 people lost their lives in Bihar for the same reason, as per an IE report. Notably, lighting is considered as perhaps the most dangerous and mysterious among all atmospheric phenomena. According to researchers and various studies, it is a quick and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. Some of the discharged electricity falls on earth. Various studies reveal that discharges are released from huge moisture-bearing clouds which are believed to be 10-12 km tall. Also, the temperatures at the top of these clows are between -35 to-45 degrees.

When the water vapour moves near the cloud, the low temperature leads it to condense. After the water vapour reaches a temperature less than 0 degree, the water droplets get converted into small ice crystals. They constantly move higher and gather mass, until they become heavy and start dropping on earth. Simultaneously, this leads to a situation in which smaller ice crystals move up and bigger crystals come down.

This leads to collisions leading to the release of electrons. The process is quite similar to the generation of electricity. The electrons move on and on, forming a chain reaction. Due to this, the cloud’s top layer gets positively charged while the middle layer gets negatively charged. The difference in electrical potential between the two layers is huge. Soon after, a massive current, of nearly 100,000 to a million amperes, starts flowing between layers.

Even as the earth is considered a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. It, however, becomes positively charged in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud. Because of this nearly 5 percent to 20 percent of the current movement towards It is this flow of current that causes damage to life and property on Earth.

While lighting is not considered a natural disaster in India, early warning systems have been set up in recent times which have helped save numerous lives. Nearly 96 percent of lightning deaths are reported from rural areas. This means more public awareness campaigns need to be organised.

It is worth noting that lightning protection devices are low-cost and unsophisticated, yet their deployment is low in rural areas, as per an IE report. States have also been advised to come out with lighting action plans, similar to heat action plans.

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