It’s May in Kansas which means the special effects of the sky: thunder and lightning get a workout. Thunderstorms affect us in a powerful, emotional way. Our response to thunder and lightning shows up in everyday speech, in literature, and on the weather channel. Below is a collection of facts and fantasy all about thunder and lightning.
“They say all marriages are made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning.”
Fact: Warm, humid, near-the-surface air rises and cools. Water vapor in the air condenses into a cloud and releases heat. Which makes the air around it warmer and it rises and cools and condenses. This process continues until a tall convective cloud is formed. This is the thunderstorm. The cloud can reach up to 12 miles high.
What if NASA invented thunderstorms to cover up space battles?
Fact: The sudden increase in pressure and temperature caused by lightning results in the sound we call Thunder. The sound is refracted through the lower layer of the atmosphere and reflected off the Earth’s surface. Temperature, air density, and the curvature and composition of the earth affect how the thunder sounds.
“Lightning doesn’t strike twice, but you know, baby
Nothing is impossible” lyrics from Wave
Fact: The Empire State Building used to be used as a lightning laboratory since it is hit nearly 25 times a year. Lightning strikes the ground approximately 25 million times each year in the U.S.
Early Greeks believed that lightning was a weapon of Zeus. Thunderbolts were invented by Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Since lightning was a manifestation of the gods, any spot struck by lightning was regarded as sacred.
Fact: Air, a poor conductor of electricity, gets very hot when lightning passes through it. It can get up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5 times hotter than the surface of the sun). When lightning strikes something like a tree it turns the water inside the tree into steam and can cause the tree to explode.
Umpundulo is the lightning bird-god of the Bantu tribesmen in Africa. Even today their medicine men go out in storms and bid the lightning to strike far away.
Fact: Lightning can strike 10-15 Miles from the thunderstorm. Anvil lightning can strike the ground over 50 Miles from the thunderstorm, under extreme conditions. Lightning in clouds has traveled over 100 miles from the thunderstorm according to Kennedy Space Center.
“Brainstorm until your dreams roll in like thunder & your passion strikes with the love in your eyes.”
The special effects of the sky: thunder and lightning are fearsome and awesome. No wonder we include thunder and lightning in so many myths, songs, and stories. What stories or sayings do you know about thunder or lightning?