Lightning

lightning boltlightning strikelightning strikeslightning boltssheet lightningThunderboltcloud-to-ground lightninglightning dischargeBolt from the bluebolt of lightning
Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions in the atmosphere or ground temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of as much as one gigajoule of energy.wikipedia
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Plasma (physics)

plasmaplasma physicsplasmas
This discharge may produce a wide range of electromagnetic radiation, from very hot plasma created by the rapid movement of electrons to brilliant flashes of visible light in the form of black-body radiation.
Neon signs and lightning are examples of partially ionized plasmas.

Thunder

Blue ThunderlightningRaigel
Lightning causes thunder, a sound from the shock wave which develops as gases in the vicinity of the discharge experience a sudden increase in pressure.
Thunder is the sound caused by lightning.

Electrostatic discharge

sparkESDdischarge
Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions in the atmosphere or ground temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of as much as one gigajoule of energy.
ESD can create spectacular electric sparks (lightning, with the accompanying sound of thunder, is a large-scale ESD event), but also less dramatic forms which may be neither seen nor heard, yet still be large enough to cause damage to sensitive electronic devices.

Ball lightning

fireballball of lightningball
Many other observational variants are recognized, including "heat lightning", which can be seen from a great distance but not heard; dry lightning, which can cause forest fires; and ball lightning, which is rarely observed scientifically.
Though usually associated with thunderstorms, the phenomenon lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt.

Lightning in religion

deified lightning
Humans have deified lightning for millennia, and lightning-inspired expressions like "bolt from the blue", "to be struck by lightning" (as to having an epiphany or enlightenment), "lightning never strikes twice (in the same place)" and "blitzkrieg" are in common usage.
Lightning in cultures has been viewed as part of a deity or a deity in of itself.

Heat lightning

Many other observational variants are recognized, including "heat lightning", which can be seen from a great distance but not heard; dry lightning, which can cause forest fires; and ball lightning, which is rarely observed scientifically.
Heat lightning, also known as silent lightning, summer lightning, or dry lightning (mainly used in the American Southwest; not to be confused with dry thunderstorms, which are also often called dry lightning), is a misnomer used for the faint flashes of lightning on the horizon or other clouds from distant thunderstorms that do not appear to have accompanying sounds of thunder.

Astraphobia

a fear of lightningBrontophobiaafraid of thunderstorms
The science of lightning is called fulminology, and the fear of lightning is called astraphobia.
Astraphobia, also known as astrapophobia, brontophobia, keraunophobia, or tonitrophobia is an abnormal fear of thunder and lightning, a type of specific phobia.

Dry thunderstorm

dry lightningdry thunderstormslightning
Many other observational variants are recognized, including "heat lightning", which can be seen from a great distance but not heard; dry lightning, which can cause forest fires; and ball lightning, which is rarely observed scientifically.
The latter term is a technical misnomer since lightning itself is neither wet nor dry.

Distribution of lightning

Lightning Alleyfrequency of lightning
Other lightning hotspots include Catatumbo in Venezuela, Singapore, and Lightning Alley in Central Florida.
The distribution of lightning, or the incidence of individual strikes, in any particular place is highly variable, but lightning does have an underlying spatial distribution.

Cumulonimbus cloud

cumulonimbusthundercloudcumulonimbus clouds
The three main kinds of lightning are distinguished by where they occur: either inside a single thundercloud, between two different clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.
These clouds are capable of producing lightning and other dangerous severe weather, such as tornadoes and hailstones.

Runaway breakdown

One theory postulates that showers of relativistic electrons are created by cosmic rays and are then accelerated to higher velocities via a process called runaway breakdown.
Runaway breakdown is a theory of lightning initiation proposed by Alex Gurevich in 1992.

Electric charge

chargeelectrical chargecharged
Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions in the atmosphere or ground temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of as much as one gigajoule of energy.
From ancient times, persons were familiar with four types of phenomena that today would all be explained using the concept of electric charge: (a) lightning, (b) the torpedo fish (or electric ray), (c) St Elmo's Fire, and (d) that amber rubbed with fur would attract small, light objects.

Upper-atmospheric lightning

transient luminous eventELVESBlue jet
Positive lightning has also been shown to trigger the occurrence of upward lightning flashes from the tops of tall structures and is largely responsible for the initiation of sprites several tens of kilometers above ground level.
Upper-atmospheric lightning or ionospheric lightning are terms sometimes used by researchers to refer to a family of short-lived electrical-breakdown phenomena that occur well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds.

Surge protector

surge protectionsurge suppressorTransient Voltage Surge Suppressor
Devices known as surge protectors (SPD) or transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS) attached in parallel with these lines can detect the lightning flash's transient irregular current, and, through alteration of its physical properties, route the spike to an attached earthing ground, thereby protecting the equipment from damage.
The terms surge protection device (SPD) and transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) are used to describe electrical devices typically installed in power distribution panels, process control systems, communications systems, and other heavy-duty industrial systems, for the purpose of protecting against electrical surges and spikes, including those caused by lightning.

Thunderstorm

thunderstormssevere thunderstormelectrical storm
Lightning occurs commonly during thunderstorms and other types of energetic weather systems.
A thunderstorm, also known as an electrical storm or a lightning storm, is a storm characterized by the presence of lightning and its acoustic effect on the Earth's atmosphere, known as thunder.

Thundersnow

Heavy snowfall, accompanied by lightning and thundersnowthunder
However, it can also occur during dust storms, forest fires, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and even in the cold of winter, where the lightning is known as thundersnow.
Finally, there is a greater likelihood that thundersnow lightning will have a positive polarity, which is associated with a greater destructive potential than the more common negatively-charged lightning.

Radio wave

radio wavesradioradio signal
Huge quantities of extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) radio waves are also generated.
Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.

Extremely low frequency

ELF3 HzExtremely low freq.
Huge quantities of extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) radio waves are also generated.
ELF radio waves are generated by lightning and natural disturbances in Earth's magnetic field, so they are a subject of research by atmospheric scientists.

Electric current

currentelectrical currentcurrents
The electric current needed to establish the channel, measured in the tens or hundreds of amperes, is dwarfed by subsequent currents during the actual discharge.
Natural observable examples of electrical current include lightning, static electric discharge, and the solar wind, the source of the polar auroras.

Fulgurite

altered rocksfulgaritefulgurites
As lightning travels through sandy soil, the soil surrounding the plasma channel may melt, forming tubular structures called fulgurites.
Fulgurites (from the Latin fulgur, meaning "lightning") are natural tubes, clumps, or masses of sintered, vitrified, and/or fused soil, sand, rock, organic debris and other sediments that sometimes form when lightning discharges into ground.

Streamer discharge

streamersstreamerstreamer arcs
If the electric field is strong enough, a positively charged ionic channel, called a positive or upward streamer, can develop from these points.
Streamers pave the way for arcs and lightning leaders, in which the ionized paths created by streamers are heated by large currents.

Wildfire

forest fireforest fireswildfires
Many other observational variants are recognized, including "heat lightning", which can be seen from a great distance but not heard; dry lightning, which can cause forest fires; and ball lightning, which is rarely observed scientifically. However, it can also occur during dust storms, forest fires, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and even in the cold of winter, where the lightning is known as thundersnow.

Very low frequency

VLFVery low freq.very low frequencies
Huge quantities of extremely low frequency (ELF) and very low frequency (VLF) radio waves are also generated.
However, atmospheric noise (sferics) is high in the band, including such phenomena as "whistlers", caused by lightning.

Electromagnetic pulse

EMPElectromagnetic bombEMPs
The rapidly changing currents also create electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that radiate outward from the ionic channel.

Ozone

ozonationO 3 ozone generator
Consequently, a lightning strike observed at a very close distance will be accompanied by a sudden clap of thunder, with almost no perceptible time lapse, possibly accompanied by the smell of ozone (O 3 ).
A half century later, Christian Friedrich Schönbein noticed the same pungent odour and recognized it as the smell often following a bolt of lightning.