Thunder and Lightning

Though a bit late I am continuing on with my posts on storms – we covered tornadoes last week.  I will muddle through, though I still feel I am floundering about on the crap wagon.  Once again thanks for your thoughts and prayers and for Slim filling in during my absence.


As children we may have been told that the gods were bowling in the heavens which cause all the racket in the skies during a storm.  Lightning is what causes thunder.  Lightning is a discharge of electricity. A single stroke of lightning can heat the air around it to 54,000°F.  This extreme heating causes the air to expand explosively fast. The expansion creates a shock wave that turns into a booming sound wave.

As ice crystals high within a thunderstorm cloud flow up and down in the turbulent air, they crash into each other. Small negatively charged particles called electrons are knocked off some ice and added to other ice as they crash past each other. This separates the positive (+) and negative (-) charges of the cloud. The top of the cloud becomes positively charged while the base of the cloud becomes negatively charged.

Because opposites attract, the negative charge at the bottom of the storm cloud wants to link up with the ground’s positive charge. Once the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud gets large enough, a flow of negative charge called a stepped leader rushes toward the Earth. The positive charges at the ground are attracted to the stepped leader, so positive charge flows upward from the ground. When the stepped leader and the positive charge meet, a strong electric current carries positive charge up into the cloud. This electric current is known as the return stroke. We see it as the bright flash of a lightning bolt.

Types of cloud-to-ground lightning include staccato, forked, ribbon, and bead lightening.

Staccato lightning is a strike which is a short-duration stroke that often, but not always, appears as a single very bright flash and often has considerable branching.

Forked lightning is a name, not in formal usage, for cloud-to-ground lightning that exhibits branching of its path.

Ribbon lightning occurs in thunderstorms with high cross winds and multiple strokes. The wind will blow each successive stroke slightly to one side of the previous stroke, causing a ribbon appearance.

Bead lightning appears to break up into a string of short, bright sections. It is relatively rare.

Another lightning phrase you may have heard is heat lightning. Heat lightning is a common name for a lightning flash that appears to produce no discernible thunder because it occurs too far away for the thunder to be heard. All lightning produces thunder, if a person doesn’t hear it, it is because the sound waves dissipate before they reach the observer.

During the past two decades scientists have discovered and confirmed the existence of lightning that shoots upward into the upper atmosphere from thunderstorms. Red lightning bolts can extend upward from clouds to near the top of the atmosphere. The red bolts, however, are too quick and weak to be seen by the naked eye. Blue jets, in contrast, are limited to the stratosphere and last long enough to be seen by pilots.

Cloud-to-ground lightning comes from the sky down, but the part you see comes from the ground up. A typical cloud-to-ground flash lowers a path of negative electricity (that we cannot see) towards the ground in a series of spurts. Objects on the ground generally have a positive charge. Since opposites attract, an upward streamer is sent out from the object about to be struck. When these two paths meet, a return stroke zips back up to the sky. It is the return stroke that produces the visible flash, but it all happens so fast – in about one-millionth of a second – so the human eye doesn’t see the actual formation of the stroke.

We will continue with this discussion tomorrow….


We continue to dry out in SW Michigan – any light rain or drizzle should move out this morning with clearing skies later this afternoon.  Model runs for the next system Friday and Saturday continue to trend south towards I80 which would only bring in light amounts of rain or perhaps a few snow flakes.

525 total views, 2 views today

newest oldest
Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

I am thinking about a ski trip up to Canada in a couple weeks! Incredible!

https://www.instantweathermaps.com/GFS-php/conussfc.php?run=2019032818&time=PER&var=ASNOWI&hour=384

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

Just got home. 68° and the windows are open to air out the winter funk.

*SS*
*SS*

We had to wait…farmer’s are spreading their winter funk… Lol.

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

LOL

Jeff(Portland)
Jeff(Portland)

64 here today.. Ahhh yes, loving spring.

Mookie
Mookie

Woah some locations in Michigan are approaching 70 degrees! Talk about a wrong forecast today.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Sure does’nt feel like 60 :/

Mookie
Mookie

So much for no 60’s in March. Even GR has hit 60 degrees now! What a perfect day and week.

Slim

If things go right we have a chance of our fist 70° next week. But then again 70 or better sometime in April is common and even 80 is rather common. I hope we are done with the talk of snow until November or later.
Slim

INDY
INDY

Beautiful day outside cracking a Sprite getting ready for Tigers Trump and the Dipper Danndies tonight great day in Michigan! Let’s keep it going!! INDY!!

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

It all sounds good except for Trump. March madness b-ball is Rocking!

Slim

It is now officially 60 at GRR so I will not use that any more this year LOL It now 62 here at my house
Slim

Slim

Well on this 86 day of 2019 and after 164 days it has now officially reached 60° at Grand Rapids. This is the 2nd longest number of days it has taken. Last fall the last 60° day was October 14th the earliest date in GR recorded history is October 13 in both 1925 and 1969 in those winters the 1st 60° were April 13, 1926 and April 8. 1970.
Slim

Mookie
Mookie

But it’s been months since we hit 61 or 62 😉 haha See what I did there.

Barry in Zeeland
Barry in Zeeland

Another awesome sunny day! This entire week has been near perfect. Temp at 61 here, 2nd 60 degree day this month for us. Still waiting for my prize from the first one. I wonder what it will be??

Slim

You will get well, Congratulations.
Slim

Mookie
Mookie

Several Michigan locations are now at 60+ already today! Another day outperforming the forecasts!

Mark (East Lansing)
Mark (East Lansing)

63° here. 5° warmer that forecasted this morning.

Slim

MV, some very good information on several types of lightning. We here in west Michigan have not seen many good thunderstorms over the last 2 or 3 years. On average lower Michigan has 32 to 38 thunderstorms “days” a year.
Sometime yesterday the last of the last snow pile in my yard melted. I hate to say it but there were no tears for its passing. There now has been 86 days in 2019 and guess what? of the 86 days so far this year 36 have been warmer then average and 50 have been below average.
Slim

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Who knew?

Mark(East Lansing)
Mark(East Lansing)

I like when it’s warmer in the morning than when I went to bed.

Here’s an interesting piece published earlier this month on ball lightning:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/weather/reference/ball-lightning/

Rocky (Rockford)
Rocky (Rockford)

Breaking news! Today will actually end up above normal for temps and then this weekend the bottom drops out again with multiple below normal days! The cool
Pattern is still in charge! Who would have thought?

Mookie
Mookie

After an incredibly warm 4 year period, 2019 is starting out 36 warm and 50 cold and you’re saying this is some sort of long term cooling pattern?! Interesting…

Mookie
Mookie

Muggy and mild this morning. Feels like spring! WOOD now has 5 days at 52 degrees or above, and the Rocky/Indy “snowstorm” has all been eliminated from the forecast.