Lightning is the result of the build up and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas created by the rising and falling air within a storm. All thunderstorms produce lightning.

Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.

A cloud-to-ground lightning strike begins as an invisible channel of electrically charged air moving from the cloud toward the ground. When 1 channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of electricity from the ground moves upward to the cloud and produces the visible lightning strike.
Lightning - Photographer: Sean Waugh NOAA / NSSL
Quick Facts
  • The average flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
  • The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit - hotter than the surface of the sun! The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder.