ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Types Of Lightning

Updated on October 22, 2011

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


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      The Weatherman 

      7 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.

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks for liking! :)

    • agusfanani profile image


      8 years ago from Indonesia

      Great information about lightning. Thanks hassam.

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks for reading! :)

    • KKalmes profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

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


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)