Sunday, June 08, 2008

Thunderstorms

Last night Catholicgauze watched a massive thunderstorm rock Washington D.C. The storm sent lighting to the ground and lit up the night sky. The event inspired today's post.

The formation of the thunderstorm is explained simply yet well done by The Canadian Atlas Online. Warm air rises forming moisture which then turns into clouds. So much moisture is formed that the cloud becomes huge and eventually is shaped into an anvil-shape by the jet stream. The first wave of air becomes cold and falls back to earth with rain. The cold air statically reacts with more rising hot air and lightning is formed.

The storms are more than just "pretty" things in the sky. They create economic benefits (more nitrogen in the ground helps crops grow) and negatives (destroying things). NOAA has a great site that examines lightning from an economic perspective.

In the last 100 years or so a new thing has been noticed with lightning storms. Sometimes after a strike there is a strange green glow from the surface. These are known as "power flashes" and are caused by lightning hitting electrical equipment. They last until before circuit breakers trip and turn off power to the line.

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