Lightning is a reaction between positive and negative ions. When a cloud gets big enough, the positive charge starts to compete with the negative charge of the ground.
Both ions start to move toward each other, which is invisible to the naked eye because it’s so fast.
The lightning itself is produced with both ions connect, similar to how you get sparks when you connect the wrong sides of a car battery.
“Thunder itself is the reaction after the air is vaporized by the lightning bolt,” said meteorologist Matt Jordan, “that’s the crack that you hear right afterwards.”
Lightning can spark from the ground up to the sky or from the cloud down to the ground. Incredibly, the temperature of a lightning strike can be five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
Nicole Costantino is a reporter and weather forecaster for NBC5 News. She comes to us from Phoenix, Arizona where she graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She also received a minor in Meteorology.
Before coming to NBC5 News Nicole was an anchor, weathercaster and reporter at KAET in Phoenix, AZ. In college, she interned for CBS Evening News in New York City and the NBC4 Investigative Team in Los Angeles.
In her free time, you can find Nicole cheering on her Sun Devils and exploring the Pacific Northwest. Feel free to send story ideas and chocolate chip cookie recipes to her on Facebook (@NicoleCostantino) or Twitter (@NicCostantino).