Q:

How many volts are in a lightning bolt?

A:

Quick Answer

According to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, a single lightning bolt can have 100 million to 1 billion volts, and it contains billions of watts, depending on whether it is positive lightning or negative lightning. Lightning strikes ground in the United States approximately 25 million times each year.

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How many volts are in a lightning bolt?
Credit: Eric Kilby CC-BY-2.0

Full Answer

Positive lightning, which comprises less than 5 percent of all lightning, originates on top of the clouds, rather than the lower portion of the storm, as negative lightning. These type of lightning can travel up to 25 miles horizontally in the air before they strike the ground and are sometimes called "bolts from the blue." Because of the greater distance to the ground, they develop much higher voltages.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where does lightning come from?

    A:

    Lightning forms when opposite charges between a cloud and the ground or between two clouds develop. The charges have to be large enough to overcome the resistance of air to create a visible lightning spark. A single lightning strike can reach up to 100 million volts and generate temperatures five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

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  • Q:

    How does lightning form?

    A:

    Lightning forms when the electrons in the bottom of a cloud are attracted to the protons in the ground. When the attraction of these electrical charges is greater than the surrounding air's resistance to electrical flow, the electrons are able to stream down to the protons. At this point, lightning forms, heating the air around it and causing the air to expand. Thunder is then heard.

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  • Q:

    What makes lightning?

    A:

    Lightning is caused by an electric current inside a thundercloud that connects with the ground beneath the cloud. Lightning occurs when tiny pieces of ice start bumping into one another as they travel through the air. The collisions of ice generate an electric charge inside the cloud.

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  • Q:

    What color is lightning?

    A:

    Lightning is usually white, but it can be a variety of colors depending on what the light travels through to get to the viewer’s eyes. In snowstorms, lightning can appear pink or green. Particles in the atmosphere affect the color by absorbing or diffracting a portion of the white light.

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