Types Of Lightning

Lightning is a natural phenomenon which occurs during, before or after a rainfall in the sky. Basically lightning is a flow of electric charge with a visible flash.

When it rains the natural balance of charge between the sky and the earth is disturbed and the water particles increasing their concentration cause a great difference between the charges that leads to an electrical discharge which is observed as the lightning.

Following are the types of lightning:

Cloud To Ground Lightning

As the name suggests, the cloud to ground lightning is caused due to the attraction of negative and the positive ends of the clouds in the sky and the ground. The cloud to ground lightning is a very common type of lightning and is usually observed during a storm. 

Cloud To Ground Lightning
Cloud To Ground Lightning

What happens is that when a storm hits an area, the clouds above become negatively charged and the ground below becomes positively charged.

When a negatively charged cloud moves over the positively charged area of the ground there is an electrical discharge due to the difference of charges and this electrical discharge is the cloud to ground lightning that we observe.

Cloud to ground lightning can be very dangerous as the lightning can hit any positively charged area on the ground; this can be a plain ground a house or any building.

Therefore it is believed to be probably the most dangerous type of lightning. One must always stay in his house when lightning strikes during a storm because the lightning may hit any area on the ground below.

Cloud To Cloud Lightning
Cloud To Cloud Lightning
A sprite
A sprite

Cloud To Cloud Lightning

Cloud to cloud lightning is observed when there is an electrical discharge between two different clouds due to the difference in their charges. Cloud to cloud lightning like cloud to ground lightning is very common and is observed during a thunderstorm or a heavy rain fall.

The cloud to cloud lightning appears as sheets of light behind the clouds in the sky. It may also appear in cracks behind the clouds. At night it actually gives a wonderful view in the sky.

Since this type of lightning remains restricted to the sky, it has apparently no harmful effect on our lives and is completely harmless.

Sprite Lightning

Sprite lightning just like the ball lightning is a mysterious type of lightning which is very rarely observed. The cause of sprite lightning is not confirmed but it is sometimes observed after or during a thunderstorm.

It emits rapidly from the top of the storm and travel upwards moving as high as 50 miles into the atmosphere. It appears as a reddish pink jet of lightning moving rapidly upwards.

They last for a very short time. Scientists believe that the sprites emit electromagnetic pulses that interact with ionosphere- a portion of the atmosphere, and emit radio waves. 

Upper Atmosphere lightning phenomenon.
Upper Atmosphere lightning phenomenon.

Blue Jet Lightning

Blue jets shoot form the top of the cumulonimbus cloud above thunderstorm, 40 to 50 km above earth. The shoot in the form of a narrow cone, into the ionosphere. Blue jets are not necessarily caused by lightning during thunderstorm. They can trigger even when there is no lightning caused.

Ball Lightning
Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning

Unlike the usual types of lightings which work on the simple principle of electrical discharge caused due to the attraction between two oppositely charged poles, ball lightning is a complex electrical phenomenon which has been raising questions for centuries.

Ball lightning is basically a luminous sphere about the size of baseball or even larger, which floats in the sky and is usually observed after a normal lightning strike. It glows as bright as a 100 watt bulb and is believed to contain almost 1 billion joules of energy.

Lightning caused by a volcano
Lightning caused by a volcano

This luminous sphere has the ability to penetrate the walls and the windows of any building which makes it extremely lethal. It is usually short lived and lasts for about 25-30 seconds. During this time it may remain floating in the sky or may penetrate the walls of buildings. It vanishes quickly emitted an explosive sound and releasing a large amount of energy.

What causes this peculiar phenomenon is still not confirmed. For centuries scientists have been trying to uncover the truth behind this mysterious phenomenon and over the years many theories have been given regarding its origin.

Today most of the scientists believe that the ball lightning is caused by a vortex ring of plasma- an ionized gas with equal number of positive and negative charges, produced at extremely high temperatures. It is also believed that it might be caused due electrically charged water molecules.

National Geographic's Documentary On Lightning

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Comments 5 comments

KKalmes profile image

KKalmes 6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Thank you Hassam, I love reading and watching specials on lightning... nice job!


hassam profile image

hassam 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks for reading! :)


agusfanani profile image

agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

Great information about lightning. Thanks hassam.


hassam profile image

hassam 6 years ago from Pakistan Author

Thanks for liking! :)


The Weatherman 5 years ago

It is my understanding that "Ball Lightning" is not even a phenomenon that is acknowledged by the scientific community as "Lightning" per se. It has been observed in thunderstorms AND in the complete absence of clouds. Air Force Weather doctrine does not acknowledge it at all.

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