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Weather Watch: The science behind all those thunder and lightning storms

Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover PNL-141203-094343001

Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover PNL-141203-094343001

  • by Daniel Adamson, head of meteorological research and development at MetDesk in Wendover
 

During the past couple of weeks, Aylesbury Vale and the surrounding areas have been treated to spectacular displays of nature’s fireworks, on more than one occasion.

Towering thunderclouds have sent lightning forking across the sky and have even thrown in hailstones amongst torrential downpours.Meteorology is incredibly advanced yet there is still mystery surrounding exactly what produces lightning.

We know that the process involves the separation of electrical charge, whereby positively charged particles rise to the top of the thundercloud and negatively charged particles reside within the lower reaches of the storm.

Once this charge-separation becomes too great, a giant spark of static electricity is produced.

This is exactly the same process, albeit on a much grander scale, that we see ourselves when scuffing across carpet whilst wearing slippers, receiving a zap of static electricity when we touch another object.

Around 75% of all lightning strikes occur within the thunderstorm cloud itself.

However, as a thunderstorm moves overhead, it induces a positive charge in ground-based objects such as mountains, trees and even you!

Because of this large charge-separation between the cloud and the ground, 25% of lightning strikes are known as cloud-to-ground strikes, delivering up to 1 billion volts of electricity. Such huge voltages create unfathomable temperatures of over 30,000 degrees Celsius and this sudden rise in temperature causes the air to explode. It is this explosion that we hear as thunder.

I’ve heard many people describe thunder and lightning as two separate entities but this is not the case.

The chances of being hit by lightning are extremely low but you certainly increase your risk if you stand outside during an approaching thunderstorm. The rough rule of thumb is that if you can hear thunder, you’re in potential danger, so seek inside shelter.

It does look as if our thunder risk will decrease for the rest of this week and into the weekend.

There will be a few showers around but some warm sunshine too. Temperatures this weekend will rise to around 19 or 20C in the sunny spells although it’s looking wet later on Sunday.

>@metdesk

>www.metdesk.com

>MetDesk’s brilliant new weather app, Home and Dry, great for tracking UK storms and heavy rainful, is now available to download from the Apple store

 

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