Classroom 9: Why does lightning and thunder happen

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – For Monday’s Classroom 9 lesson, I will explain what thunder and lightning are and how they go together.

Lightning happens first in a thunderstorm because the charge in the cloud is opposite from the charge on the ground.

Lightning is attracted to the opposite charge, so if the charge in the cloud is positive, then it will strike something on the ground that has a negative charge.

The opposite is also true, so if a negative charge is in the cloud, the lightning will strike a positive charge on the ground.

It travels the path of least resistance, so tall objects are usually struck because they are the easiest thing for the lightning to reach.

Lightning also gets extremely hot at around 53,000° F, which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

All of the heat in a quick flash of lightning causes the air around the lightning to rapidly expand for a split second.

The rapidly expanding air quickly collapses in on itself once the flash is over, and the sound you hear as thunder is actually the sound wave created from the air contracting in on itself.

The delay in the flash of lightning to the sound of thunder is because light travels quicker than sound.

So if you see lightning and then immediately hear thunder, it means that it was very close to where you’re at and to head indoors.

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