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  • Writer's pictureWildfire Aware

A Brief History of Lightning


From the dawn of time, lightning has been a source of awe and fascination for mankind. Drawing from ancient mythology and folklore to modern science, lightning continues to captivate us with its bright flashes and loud booms. But how much do you know about the history, science, and safety precautions behind this impressive phenomenon? Let’s take a look at the basics of lightning.


What is Lightning?

At its core, lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air, or the ground. In its earliest stages of development, air acts as an insulator between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground. When these opposite charges build up enough energy, this insulating capacity breaks down resulting in a rapid discharge of electricity which we call lightning. This flash temporarily equalizes those charged regions in our atmosphere until opposite charges once again accumulate creating another spark of light.


Types of Lightning

Lightning can occur between opposite charges within a thunderstorm cloud (intra-cloud lightning) or between opposite charges in the cloud and on the ground (cloud-to-ground lightning). Both types are extremely dangerous but cloud-to-ground lightning poses an even greater risk due to its ability to travel great distances before striking an object on land such as a tree or house.

A Brief History

Lightning is one of oldest observed natural phenomena on earth. Ancient civilizations such as Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Roman, Hindu etc., all have references to gods who used lightning bolts as weapons and symbols for power and strength. Over time various cultures have developed myths about gods using lighting bolts to punish evil doers or reward good behavior! Lightning was also recorded by early scientists like Benjamin Franklin who conducted experiments with kites during thunderstorms in 1750’s to prove that it was electric current flowing through air from clouds to earth.


Lightning Safety Tips

Although cloud-to-ground lightning is a cause of wildfires, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from its potential risks. First off, if you see thunderstorms or clouds gathering overhead, seek shelter immediately. If you hear thunder, then you are close enough to be struck by lightning—so stay inside until 30 minutes after your last “boom!” Additionally, if you live in an area prone to wildfires caused by lightning, try to avoid activities such as camping or hiking during stormy weather. Lastly, make sure your property is free from any flammable materials that could spark a fire when hit by lightning.


While we may never unravel all mysteries surrounding this awesome force of nature we can still appreciate it from afar while also taking necessary measures for our safety during storms when it strikes closer to home. Fortunately with advances in science over centuries we now understand why and how it occurs enabling us to better predict when it might occur helping us stay out its way! Lightning poses a serious risk for wildfire ignition—especially in dry and arid climates. To protect yourself from these risks, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings so that you don’t get caught outside during thunderstorms.

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