by Nikhil Pandey
Lightning proceeds in a series of steps.
All of us have seen lightning and have been surprised at the giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds and the air. The thunder and the loud boom of the phenomenon can scare a lot of people. If one might closely observe, in movies or otherwise, lightning is always seen in a “zigzag” pattern known as steps.
These “zigzags” (also known as steps) are explained by a recent study that was published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. It also explains how lightning may travel over thousands of kilometres.
Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground or within the clouds themselves, according to National Geographic. Most lightning occurs within the clouds. “Sheet lightning” describes a distant bolt that lights up an entire cloud base. Other visible bolts may appear as beads, ribbons, or rocket lightning.
Thunderclouds have powerful electrical fields that excite electrons to the point where they have enough energy to produce “single delta oxygen molecules.”
These molecules and electrons combine to form a small, strongly conducting step that briefly emits brilliant light.
Another brilliant, flashing leap occurs after a brief pause during the build-up at the end of the step. The procedure is continually repeated to form the zigzags.
According to the The Conversation, photographs of lightning reveal a host of details not observed by the naked eye. Usually there are four or five faint “leaders” coming from the cloud. These are branched and zigzag on an irregular path towards the earth.
Pictures of lightning show a variety of features that the human eye is unable to see. Typically, the cloud will have four or five weak “leaders” emerging from it. These zigzag and branch as they go in an unpredictably downward direction.