Weather U: How do lightning and severe storms form?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Today on Weather U, we're discussing lightning and severe storms, and how they form.

Lightning is a discharge of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground. But how does lightning form?


Positive and negative particles become separated inside the cloud, with negative particles going to the bottom of the cloud. These negative charges at the bottom of the cloud are attracted to the positive charges on the surface of the Earth. If these opposite charges build up enough, a connection is made, causing lightning.

Lightning can briefly heat the air around it to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit which can cause the air to expand rapidly. The noise we hear when this happens is called thunder.

When thunderstorms get very strong and intense, they could be classified as severe storms. A severe storm is classified as a storm that produces one inch of hail or larger in diameter and/or winds equal or over 58 mph and/or a tornado. If you get a severe thunderstorm warning for your area, you want to seek shelter immediately as that storm will be impacting you soon if not already.


The video above gives an in-depth explanation on lightning formation, lightning safety, and severe storms.

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