Is It Always Lightning That Strikes The Ground?

Hello and welcome to another entertaining science article! You’ve probably all witnessed lightning at some point in your lives. You’ve probably also read that during a thunderstorm, lightning strikes first, followed by thunder.

As a result, we’ll look at a lot more interesting parts of lightning today. So, to respond to the main question.

Is lightning usually a ground strike? No, lightning isn’t usually a direct hit on the ground. In truth, there are three types of lightning in nature, each of which may be distinguished by the location where it occurs. In the instance of cloud to ground lightning, the lightning strikes the ground.

Let’s take a closer look at it.

What Causes Lightning to Strike?

We’re all aware of the significance of a prospective difference. You’ve probably noticed that when water flows, it moves from a place where there is more water to a place where there is less water until the volume of water on both sides equalises.

The converse process does not occur, i.e., water or any other substance cannot flow from a low-concentration zone to a high-concentration region. Heat and electricity are in a similar situation.

In the latter situation, the flow of electricity is caused by a potential difference or a voltage difference between two locations. Electrical charges flow from the higher potential region to the lower potential region as a result of this discrepancy.

Lightning is caused by a high-voltage natural electrical discharge that occurs suddenly. It can happen within a single cloud, between two clouds, or between the ground and the cloud.

The electrical discharge is caused by a large potential difference between two locations in the atmosphere, allowing the potential to be temporarily stabilised. This also results in the sudden release of a large amount of energy.

A lightning strike is, of course, extremely hot. It’s so hot that it can raise the temperature of the air around it to levels far exceeding those of the sun!

This quick heating of the air produces a loud sound that we all recognise as thunder. Thunder is heard a few seconds after the lightning flash, despite the fact that the air is instantly heated. This is due to the fact that light travels considerably quicker than sound.

What are the Causes of Lightning?

Lightning is caused by a quick passage of electric charge, which implies that electricity is generated in the clouds. What causes this to happen?

As a result, when the air at the earth’s surface warms up, it rises into the atmosphere. Water vapour is present in the air, and it condenses to produce clouds. As a result, the heated air rises to a height high enough to become a part of the cloud.

So, in a massive cloud, the lowest portion is made up of rather heated water vapour.

However, this is not the case in the cloud’s highest reaches. The temperature in the higher regions is exceedingly low, so low that the water vapour in that location freezes and the air around it becomes even colder.

When millions of little ice chunks collide as they move through the clouds, they generate static electric charges within each other, similar to the charges generated by rubbing a comb through your hair, which can attract paper. As a result, millions of charged particles form within the cloud.

The lighter, positively charged particles now aggregate at the cloud’s top surface, while the heavier, negatively charged particles assimilate at the bottom.

When the magnitudes of both charges reach a certain point, lightning occurs between the two clusters of charges.

The Different Types of Lightning

As a result, there are primarily two types of lightning.

lightning within the cloud

Lightning that travels from cloud to cloud

Lightning from the clouds to the ground

The first form of lightning is further divided into two distinct categories.

Intra-cloud lightning (which occurs within the same cloud) and cloud-to-cloud lightning (which occurs between two different clouds) are the two types.

These two types of lightning account for over 80% of all lightning in nature. As a result, much of the lightning is so dim that we don’t even notice it.

The most prevalent type of lightning is intra-cloud lightning. It can even be seen from a long way away. Only a dazzling flash of lightning is visible in these circumstances, and thunder is not heard.

The ground is not struck by these two types of lightning.

A series of negative charges in the shape of steps or a ladder form during cloud-to-ground lightning.

A stepped leader is what it’s called. It descends from the sky in a zig-zag pattern, with each trail being around 150 feet long and resembling a fork. Because the charges travel so swiftly in a fraction of a second, you can’t see them.

When it gets close to the ground, it attracts all the positive charges on the ground and in nearby things like automobiles, trees, houses, and even humans!

Positive charges are drawn to the stepped leaders and attempt to ascend in lengthy streams of positively charged particles.

This causes an electric current to flow between the positive and negative charges, forming a return stroke of lightning that travels back upwards at a fast speed towards the cloud.

Lightning is created in this manner. During a thunderstorm, you should avoid standing near an electric pole or under a tree because the lightning current could strike them, endangering the person standing nearby.

What Attracts Lightning to a Place?

The key variables that attract lightning are objects that are tall, have a conical or pointy form, and are isolated.

Lightning strikes most tall buildings, mountains, trees, and monuments multiple times a year.

When there is a thunderstorm, we should avoid standing near metal poles or telephone poles since they may attract lightning.

How Can Lightning Be Prevented in a House or Building?

With the help of a lightning conductor, this can be accomplished.

A lightning conductor is a device erected on the top of a structure to prevent it from being struck by lightning. It’s a tall, metallic building with a sharp top.

When mounted on a building, it pulls all lightning to itself, preventing it from striking other regions.

It is stored at a building’s highest point and is connected to the ground. The other end of this connecting network is a metallic strip buried deep into the ground, and it has a very low resistance.

Because of the length of the lightning conductor, when lightning hits, it is attracted to it and absorbed by it.

It passes through this conducting network and is eventually absorbed into the ground due to the low resistance path. As a result, the building is protected by this device.

What Can You Do to Stay Safe During a Thunderstorm?

To protect yourself and others during a storm, take the following steps:

  1. If a thunderstorm has begun, do not stay outside. Always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always, always If you are unable to return home, seek refuge in a nearby safe structure. Also, keep a safe distance from towering trees, electric poles, and telephone poles.
  2. Staying safe indoors: Avoid touching any electrical equipment or switches with wet hands, and keep heavy appliances turned off whenever possible.
  3. Assist Others: If others are trapped or stuck outside, bring them inside and assist them. If you notice someone who has been struck by lightning, assist them by administering first aid.


We studied how lightning forms in the atmosphere in today’s article. Then we learned about several varieties of lightning and how they operate. We learned about the workings of a lightning conductor and how we might use it to safeguard our houses.

Finally, we looked at how to keep people safe during thunderstorms.

Good luck with your studies!

Read more: Molecular Geometry, Hybridization, and Polarity of BeH2 Lewis Structure

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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