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Why do storms create lightning?


Why do storms create lightning?

Thor-nder ...ah almost! The sound of thunder is the sound of the mighty Thor striking his hammer….said my grandfather when I was young. I don’t think my grandfather really knew. The Vikings said it was Thor. In fact, the name Thor comes from the Viking word for thunder. Humans in the past didn’t really know much about science, so a lot of gods and ideas were invented to explain things like thunder and lightning. Thunder is quite easy actually - it’s simply the sound of a lightning strike. Sometimes you can see the lightning first (because light travels faster than sound) and then hear the sound of thunder a little bit later. If the sound comes later than the flash, it means the lightning is further away. My other grandfather said thunder was the sound of thousands of dads snoring in their bedrooms!


It’s all about energy

Now, remember how we said that the energy from the sun hits Earth and gives life. Well, it also makes water evaporate and rise into the air as a gas - The Water Cycle. Eventually, it falls back to Earth as rain. Sometimes, though, as it falls through the cloud, it bangs into atoms and pushes the electrons dancing around the atom down to the bottom of the cloud. You see, electrons love moving around and will jump onto other things whenever they can like fleas on a dog! Protons and neutrons are much lazier, like an old dog lying on its bed. So, at the bottom of the cloud, lots and lots of electrons and donkeys and teachers and carrots form together. The air at the bottom has lots and lots of extra electrons and becomes negatively charged - just like electricity!


Zap!

Electricity is just electrons zapping around the air. When the air in a cloud has too many electrons, the energy builds up and up and up until there is too much in one place. And remember what happens when there are too many air molecules, they move and you get wind. When there are too many negatively charged air molecules, they zap down to Earth like a gun or like a small 2nd grade boy picking his nose and flinging the bogey! Yikes. Lightning is electrons shooting through the air. Wires and cables have electrons shooting through them, and you, yes you, shoot electrons around your body to make your muscles move!

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