What differentiates lightning, thunder and lightning?

A large number of different weather phenomena occur in the Earth’s atmosphere. Some are pleasant, some can cause curiosity, some are uncomfortable for the population, and some can be devastating.

The storms They are a meteorological phenomenon of certain violence that appears when several air masses at different temperatures meet. They are usually associated with intense precipitation of rain, snow or hail, strong winds and electricity discharges, among other possible phenomena.

The electrical shocks that occur within thunderstorms are responsible for lightning, thunder and lightning. All three are different consequences of the same phenomenon. lightning is electric current itself, lightning is light that produces electric current by ionizing the air and thunder is sound that produces the sudden expansion of air around the beam.

thunder and lightning

Storms with an electrical component usually form when there is an upward movement of warm, moist air that meets cold upper masses. As it rises, the rising air loses heat and moisture is compressed to form cumulonimbus clouds that have a great vertical development (some can reach a height of tens of km).

Exactly how the electrical discharge starts is not known, but there are several hypotheses. One of the most widespread is the electrostatic induction hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, ice crystals, supercooled water droplets, and hail form within cumulonimbus clouds. These particles collide with each other dragged along by strong wind currents and with the collisions they develop static electricity.

Ice crystals are positively charged and, being relatively lighter, accumulate on top of the cloud. Hail particles (a mixture of ice and water) are negatively charged and, being heavier, accumulate at the bottom of the cloud. Thus, creating an electrical potential until it is sufficient to initiate an electrical shock.

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Electrical discharge can occur between different clouds, between different parts of the same cloud, and between the cloud and the Earth’s surface, which generally has a higher density of positive charges (negative charges accumulate at the bottom of the cloud).

The electrostatic induction hypothesis would also apply to electrical discharges that occur in volcanic ash clouds, dust clouds that form after fires, and other phenomena that release particles into the atmosphere that can become electrically charged.

The electrical discharges produced in the storms are very strong, it can generate 1 gigawatt in an instant (1 million watts). This electrical discharge is lightning. The electric current travels from the positive to the negative zone and on its way ionizes gas molecules in the air. The ionized gas passes into a plasma state and emits light known as lightning.

That is, lightning is an electrical current that moves through the air and lightning is the light emitted by plasma that creates this electrical current, although it is common for lightning and lightning to be used colloquially as synonyms.


Electrostatic induction in the hail Cloud with electric by electrostatic induction lightning in real time


Thunder is the sound that usually accompanies lightning and electrical storms. It is a loud noise that is produced by the shock wave generated when the air around the beam abruptly expands.

Although lightning, lightning and thunder occur almost simultaneously, the thunder is heard with a delay. First you see lightning and after a few seconds you hear thunder. This is because the speed of sound propagation through air is much less than the speed of light. While light reaches 300 million meters per second, sound only reaches 343 m/s,

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Lightning is electrical energy, lightning is light and thunder is sound. All three occur almost simultaneously, but sound travels much slower than light, and so thunder is heard with a delay after lightning. Among other possible mechanisms, lightning is formed by electrostatic induction in the particles of some types of clouds, mainly of the cumulonimbus type, with positive charges accumulating at the top of the cloud and negative charges at the bottom until the electrical potential is sufficient to produce an electric shock. Light from lightning is produced by the ionization of gaseous molecules in the air when passing an electric current (the air passes into a plasma state). The sound of thunder is due to the shock wave produced by the sudden expansion of the air around the lightning bolt.

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