Lightning is a natural phenomenon involving very high quantum of destructive energy. The lightning
cannot be prevented. Effective and reliable protection is the only solution.
Lightning is generated by circulating winds and water molecules in a thunder storm cloud. The circulating winds are essentially low intensity air currents. These low intensity air currents can only dislodge the electrons from the water molecules in the thunder-storm cloud. As a result of the removal of electrons from the water molecules, two charged masses of opposite polarity are created within the cloud, i.e., the cloud now becomes charged or polarized. The two charged masses of opposite polarity strive to attain equilibrium resulting in a lightning.
One form of lightning is where a discharge takes place from the negatively charged portion to the positively charged portion within the cloud. This is commonly known as an intra cloud lightning.
Occasionally, the charged mass from the base of a cloud moves towards earth in steps. This stream of charge is known as natural down streamer and it induces a charge of opposite polarity at any sharp points on the earth's surface. The sharp points on the earth send out their own upward streamers. Since the two streamers (down streamers and upward streamers) are opposite in polarity, they are attracted towards each other. When these two streamers meet, the air gap between the cloud and the earth breaks down, resulting in the cloud being literally wired to the earth. All the energy in the cloud flows down this corridor to the earth and this is termed as lightning. This energy can be of the order of a few hundred mega joules and it hits the earth in a few microseconds.
It is important to note that for any given downstream from the cloud, there can be many up streamers going from the earth's surface (depending on the number of sharp points in that particular area) Whichever up streamer manages to establish contact with the downstream first, will route the lightning strike to the point where the up streamer has originated. It is also pertinent to note that this entire phenomenon occurs in a few milliseconds and is invisible to the human eye.
In view of the above, it is almost impossible to predict when and where a lightning will strike. Hence it is imperative that we are adequately prepared at all times to protect ourselves against these dangerous natural phenomena.
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