Lightning: Breaking down the science

MEDFORD, Ore. — Various agencies reported thousands of lightning strikes were recorded overnight Wednesday, but what actually happens when lightning strikes?

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.

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