Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. In the atmospheric electrical discharge, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 220,000 km/h (140,000 mph), and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000 °C (54,000 °F), hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels known as fulgurites which are normally hollow and can extend some distance into the ground. There are some 16 million lightning storms in the world every year.
Lightning can also occur within the ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, or can be caused by violent forest fires which generate sufficient dust to create a static charge.
How lightning initially forms is still a matter of debate: Scientists have studied root causes ranging from atmospheric perturbations (wind, humidity, friction, and atmospheric pressure) to the impact of solar wind and accumulation of charged solar particles. Ice inside a cloud is thought to be a key element in lightning development, and may cause a forcible separation of positive and negative charges within the cloud, thus assisting in the formation of lightning.
The irrational fear of lightning (and thunder) is astraphobia. The study or science of lightning is called fulminology, and someone who studies lightning is referred to as a fulminologist.
The whole sky visible flash of lightning against the backdrop of lava flows from a volcano Eyyafyadlayokudl, April 17, 2010. Icelandic volcano that spews ash into the air and wreaking havoc in airlines across Europe, may continue to erupt for several days or even months, officials say.
Armored car company from Centurion, an infantry battalion Brigade Combat Team, 01.02 5 / 2 in the frame of lightning flashes on the outpost in the district Mayvand, Kandahar province April 19, 2010.
Lightning strikes near the town of Serchlayt, Nevada, during the first storm of the season, which runs through the western deserts of the United States. Morning, June 8, 2006.
Lightning strikes over the suburban area of Prague during a night storm, July 17, 2009.
Lightning illuminates the night sky over Plainview, Texas, May 6, 2008, at the same time, more severe storms and tornadoes forecast for the next few days.
Lightning hits the top of the Eiffel tower during a heavy storm. Paris, June 8, 1992.
Silhouettes of photographers Mike Meadows and Ella Simmons, photographing lightning strikes near the town of Serchlayt, Nevada, during the first storm of the season, which runs through the western deserts of the United States. Morning, June 8, 2006.
Lightning strikes across the sky in the town of Twentynine Palms in California during the monsoon season, August 8, 2005. Rain continues in the southern California desert is already the third week.
Dangerous idea in the performance of lightning in Las Vegas, Mother Nature is doing her show on the Las Vegas July 20, 2009. Storm brought into the valley rain and strong winds.
V building the New York Times, New York, was struck by lightning, June 10, 2008.
In the building of the Tokyo Tower in the capital of Japan hits a lightning bolt, 7 September 2008.
Lightning illuminates the sky over the coast of Beirut, 29 October 2008.
Lightning illuminates the night sky above San Jose in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, July 28, 2009. Electrical storms are not uncommon during these months, during that, as the dry season is changing the rainy season.
Lightning strikes across the sky in the town of Twentynine Palms, California during the monsoon season, August 8, 2005. Rain continues in the Southern California desert already the third week.
Lightning struck the building, “Oriental Pearl”, during that, like other lightning illuminate the horizon over the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, 22 June 2006.
Over a young couple sleeping on the beach in the village of Vama Vesh, which is 300 km (186 miles) east of Budapest, on the Black Sea coast, visible lightning flash. A small fishing village of Vama Vesh never very popular with tourists, even during the communist era Romania. Picture taken June 19, 2006.
Lightning strikes a building hotel and casino Luxor Hotel during a thunderstorm in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 17, 2006. Mandalay Bay Resort is located on the left.
Lightning over the Moscow Kremlin, the morning May 24, 2007.
Lightning is visible above the horizon in the east of Mumbai before the first rainfall during the rainy season, May 31, 2007.
Lightning strikes over the construction site during a heavy storm in Bucharest on July 11, 2007.
Lightning strikes near the hotel “Hilton Palace” during a storm at Mexico City May 23, 2010.
The lightning flash over Bangkok May 24, 2010.
Lightning hits the tower, air traffic control, just south of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, during a powerful thunderstorm, the morning on Sept. 2, 2003.
Lightning strikes in the district in Tszyutszyane Poyang, Jiangxi Province, July 20, 2010. Much of China suffers from flooding and mudslides after a week of torrential rains. As a result of which, at least, only in this month 146 people were killed and 40 others are missing.
Lightning strikes the ground during a thunderstorm in Budapest on June 10, 2009.
Lightning strikes near the space shuttle Endeavour on the top of Launch Pad 39A during a thunderstorm at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla., July 10, 2009. To assess possible damage from lightning strikes, NASA canceled the attempt to launch “Endeavour”, which aimed to build the International Space Station, scheduled for July 11, 2009. The launch was scheduled for 7:13 pm on Sunday, July 12, 2009. This picture was taken July 10, 2009.
Lightning gets in a house during a thunderstorm in Zurich July 14, 2009
Lightning illuminates the sky during a thunderstorm over the Swiss Federal Palace in Bern on July 17, 2009.
Lightning strikes during thunderstorms over Shanghai, China, July 6, 2005. Living in Shanghai have experienced ten hot summer days with temperatures exceeding 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit).