Interesting Facts About Lightning

Lightning is an amazing and breathtaking sight to witness. At the same time it is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable of all natural phenomena. But how much do you really know about lightning? Even though scientists all over the world are gathering facts about lightning, dividing it into different types, measuring its voltage, monitoring temperature, and creating it in laboratories, it is still impossible to predict the behavior of every lightning bolt. Let’s look through some facts about lightning.

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    • At this very moment there are about 1800 thunderstorms.
    • Every year, the Earth experiences an average of 25 million lightning strikes during some 100,000 thunderstorms. That’s more than a hundred lightning bolts per second.
    • An average instance of lightning lasts about a quarter of a second and consists of 3-4 strikes.
    • You can hear thunder from about 12 miles from the starting point.
    • Lightning bolts travel at speeds of up to 60,000 miles per second.
    • The average length of a single lightning bolt is 2-3 miles.
    • A single lightning bolt travels through twisted paths in the air that can be as wide as one of your fingers or between six and ten miles.
    • The temperature of a typical lightning bolt can reach 50,000 F degrees – that is 5 times greater than the temperature of the surface of the Sun.
  • The energy contained in a single lightning strike can power a 100 Watt light bulb for 90 days.
  • “Lightning never strikes twice” unfortunately is a myth. Lightning can strike the same location many times.
  • Ancient Greeks believed that when a lightning strike hit the sea a new pearl appeared.
  • Trees sometimes can take direct hits from lightning and not get burnt – the electricity passes over their wet surface and goes straight into the ground.

Photo from Wikimedia

Photo from Wikimedia

Photo from Wikimedia by Silver Surfer

  • Glass forms when lightning strikes into sandy soil. After a storm you can find strips of glass in the sand.
  • If you have wet clothes on, lightning will do you less harm.
  • In March of 1991 a single six-hour storm stretching over Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Missouri caused more than 15,000 lightning strikes. During the storm the skies were ablaze with almost constant lightning.
  • Lightning hits the Empire State Building (NY, USA) about 23 times a year.
  • Lightning strikes also occur on Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus.
  • The Aztecs believed that lightning accompanied the dead, splitting the earth and making its way into its depths.
  • In the Middle Ages it was believed that church bells expelled evil spirits. Thunder and lightning were regarded as diabolical, so during a thunderstorm monks tried to constantly ring the bells. As a result the victims of lightning very often were bell-ringers.
  • The irrational fear of lightning is known as keraunophobia. The fear of thunder is termed brontophobia.
  • There are from 100 to 1000 instances of ball lightning at the same time on Earth, but the chance you’ll see at least one in your lifetime is just 0.01%.

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Photo by paul+photos=moody

Photo by ergates

Photo by iratxo.foto

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Photo by StormWlf

Deadly Facts

  • On average, about 200 people are killed by lightning in the United States every year.
  • The state of Florida holds the title of the “Deadliest State.” There are twice as many lightning casualties as in any other state. 10% of all people struck by lightning were in Florida at the time.
  • The chance to be killed by lightning is 1 in 2,000.000. You have the same chance dying from falling out of bed.
  • Never talk on the phone while a storm is breaking outside. Not only do cell phones “attract” lightning, but about 1% of all lightning deaths in the U.S. are a result of people talking inside the home on a corded phone during a thunderstorm.
  • About 71% of all people struck by lightning survive. The fatal cases are usually the result of cardiac arrest. However, those who survive often suffer from serious health and psychological problems like loss of memory or sensitivity, insomnia, impaired hearing, or constant pain.

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Photo by Bjarke Freund-Hansen

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Photo by Ian Boggs


There are also lots of facts that scientists just cannot explain – for example  the seeming “addiction” of lightning to some places or even humans.

Park ranger Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977: in 1942 the lightning burned his thumb and his leg, in July 1969  lightning burned his eyebrows, in July 1970 it burned his shoulder, in April 1972 it scorched his hair, in August 1973 it burned his legs, in June 1976 lightning hit his ankle and in June 1977 he suffered a seared breast and abdomen. Such a destiny let to psychological problems and depression and six years later, in September 1983, Sullivan committed suicide.

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Photo by Blaise Thirard

Photo by Andre Karwath aka Aka

Another weird story happened to a Bulgarian woman, Martha Maiko. In 1935, an American tourist, Randolph Eastman, during a thunderstorm asked to stay in her house until the storm ended. A week later they were married, but 2 months later the man was killed by lightning. Later Maiko remarried, this time to a Frenchman named Charles Mort. During their trip to Spain her second husband also was struck by lightning. The widow returned to Sofia and started therapy to heal from depression. Later on she married the doctor she was getting the treatment from. They were married in Berlin, but during a trip to France a lightning bolt hit the car they were driving. The third husband was killed on the spot. As far as the facts say, she was not married for a fourth time.

Photo by StormWlf

Photo by StormWlf

Photo from wikimedia

Photo by Stefano Merler (Merlo) and Monica Dallabona

No one to this day can explain a terrible tragedy that took place in Japan. A class of school students went on a trip. A school teacher told the class to hold onto a rope. Lightning struck and traveled through the rope, killing exactly half of the students. The oddest part is that each even-numbered child in the line was killed and none of the students in odd-numbered positions were even burned.

So even if you a fan of lightning be careful and remember that no one knows its behavior. If you just can’t live without watching the lightning maybe it would be better to purchase a plasma ball!

Photo by TechnoFrood

Photo by TechnoFrood