Lightning is essentially a giant spark of static electricity, though much about how and why it forms remains unknown and the subject of scientific research. It is known that lightning occurs in thunderstorms when there is a separation of electrical charge within the storm clouds, which can cause cloud-to-cloud lightning, the majority of lightning that occurs in a storm. A charge separation can also form between thunderstorm clouds and the ground, leading to classic cloud-to-ground lightning. Thunder is the acoustic shock wave that results from the heat that a lightning strike produces. NASA research suggests that lightning flashes 40 times a second around the globe. Read about the latest lightning research and see amazing lightning photos below.
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Zap! New Map Charts Every Lightning Bolt
Map of Lightning Strikes
April 2nd, 2015
A new map shows the distribution of lightning strikes across the Earth over the past two decades.
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Global Warming Will Bring More US Lightning Strikes
November 13th, 2014
Expect a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes within the United States by 2100 if temperatures continue to rise due to greenhouse gas emissions.
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'Whistling' Volcanic Lightning Heard Halfway Around the World
Mount Redoubt lightning
July 24th, 2014
Eerie radio signals called whistlers have been detected from volcanic lightning for the first time.
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Cities Birth More Thunderstorms Than Rural Areas
Atlanta lightning
February 19th, 2015
Hot and humid cities can birth more summer thunderstorms than rural areas in the Southeast.
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Flash Photography: 'Bolt from the Blue' Caught on Camera
bolt from the blue
September 29th, 2014
A high-speed camera run by the University of Florida's Lightning Research Laboratory caught an unusual bolt from the blue in Gainesville.
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Origin of Mysterious Jellyfish Lightning 'Sprites' Revealed
A red sprite with a classic jellyfish shape
May 9th, 2014
The origin of the mysterious reddish lighting above thunderstorms, known as atmospheric sprites, has long puzzled scientists, but they now have some idea how it forms.
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Sun's Shifting Magnetic Field May Predict Lightning Strikes
Lightning Storm
November 21st, 2014
The sun may be partly responsible for lightning strikes on Earth, and scientists think fluctuations in the sun's magnetic field could be used to predict lightning storms weeks in advance.
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Pacific Storm Julio Unleashes Powerful 'Dark Lightning' Flash
Hurrianes Iselle and Julio on Aug. 6
August 8th, 2014
Before the Hawaii-bound storm Julio strengthened into a hurricane, a NASA satellite spotted a high-energy flash of "dark lightning" coming from the swirling clouds.
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Lightning Strike Launches Storm Chaser into Sky (Incredible Video)
May 28th, 2014
The video shows dust and dirt shooting up into the air after the current from the lightning passed through Scott Sheppard's body and hit the ground. The end of the footage shows the hole that was left in the pavement. Sheppard survived the strike.
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