There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of


It’s fast, it’s a million volts furious, and it comes without warning. Of course, we’re talking about lightning. But not all lightning is the same — you can often identify which type of lightning is in the sky by its appearance and other atmospheric factors

6 Types of Lightning

Air is a poor conductor of electricity, so a great deal of potential energy must build up between positive and negative charges to overcome the air’s resistance and create a lightning strike. Lightning typically needs over 1 million volts of potential to complete the circuit, and a shorter distance from cloud to the ground makes it easier for lightning to strike. The cycle may repeat thousands of times in an electrically active thunderstorm.

1. Cloud-to-Ground (CG) Lightning

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

2. Negative Cloud-to-Ground (-CG) Lightning

Negative cloud-to-ground is the most common type of CG lightning. Once the flash illuminates, you’ll see many forks, called branching. Sometimes lightning will appear to shoot out of a cloud straight into clear air, but in reality, the bolt bends downward at some point to touch the ground and complete the circuit.

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

3. Positive Cloud-to-Ground (+CG) Lightning

Another form of CG lighting is positive CG. This is where the current flows in the opposite direction of negative CG lightning and from higher in the storm cloud. These strikes typically produce a single intense bolt, and they may rapidly-fire along the same pathway many times without branching. Requiring a higher amount of energy than other types of lightning, positive CG lightning is more often produced by severe storm clouds that are at higher levels in the atmosphere, which provide the lightning strikes the energy they need to reach the ground.

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

4. Cloud-to-Cloud (CC) Lightning

CC lighting travels between two separate clouds. It can be tough to tell when the weather is overcast, but generally, a very long bolt through the sky will be cloud to cloud. The world record for a CC lightning strike happened over Brazil on Halloween night in 2018, when a strike traveled 440 miles!

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

5. Intra-Cloud Lightning

Intra-cloud lightning occurs when the current travels within the same cloud as it connects areas of differing charge, causing various portions of the same cloud to light up. Sheet and heat lightning are common types of intra-cloud lightning.

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

6. Ball Lightning

Ball lightning is a bluish-white or yellow electrified sphere that floats in the air or along the ground. It usually lasts between five to 10 seconds and often has a burning smell of sulfur along the way. Ball lightning has been documented for centuries, but we are still trying to learn what causes this unexplained phenomenon. There are many theories, such as tiny floating particles that act as a battery or a big ball of compressed air emitting light from charged particles. Many people don’t believe that ball lightning even exists, and they argue that it’s just a hallucination. Crazy stuff!

There are currently 6 Types of Lightning To Be Aware Of

Stay Ahead of Lightning Danger

AcuRite offers both permanent home weather stations that track lightning strikes and portable lightning detectors. Don’t get caught off guard — know where the trouble is and stay ahead of it with a quality weather monitoring tool that includes lightning alerts. Keep an eye on the sky!

Steve LaNore is a certified broadcast meteorologist with more than 30 years’ forecasting and technical experience. He has provided meteorological consulting for everyone from insurance adjusters to courts and is a nine-time award-winning author and broadcaster. He has authored two books, available on Amazon. He resides in north Texas near beautiful Lake Texoma.

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