Cabot first graders ask how lightning works, we answer

Mariel Ruiz answers a question from a Cabot elementary class about lightning.

Thank you to the bright minds in Mrs. Gonyea's first grade class at Eastside Elementary in Cabot. They asked how does lightning form!
 
First, what is lightning? It is an electrical current, much like the one that runs through your house when you turn on a light. 
 
The process starts with growing clouds. Within clouds, there are water droplets condensing and creating the cloud. The higher you go up, the colder it gets. As the temperature drops, water droplets become ice crystals.
 
Within the chaos of a cloud, these ice crystals are constantly colliding, creating an electrical charge. After some time, the positive charge goes to the top of the cloud while the negative charge sinks to the bottom of the cloud. 
 
Remember the rule, opposites attract?  Because of this rule, a positive charge builds up at the surface and concentrates around tall, conductive objects like trees or lightning rods. The charges eventually connect, creating a lightning strike. 
 
Lightning strikes are about six times hotter than the surface of the sun. When a lightning rod travels through the air, the air quickly expands because of the heat and creates a sound we know as thunder! 
 
We see lightning before we hear thunder because light travels faster than sound. 
 
I hope this clears things up. Teachers and students, if you have any more science questions that need answers feel free to email me a video of that question at mruiz@thv11.com

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