BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – A flash of lightning, then the roar of thunder. Nature’s stormy couple has been a fixture in many horror movies usually involving an imposing castle, a mad scientist, and a reanimated corpse.
We also remembered the first time as kids when we encountered the duo and how we used to cower underneath the nearest furniture, being careful to avoid mirrors and shiny things.
So what are lightning and thunder and how are these formed?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains that lightning begins as static charges in a rain clouds containing rather turbulent winds.
As water droplets in the bottom part of the cloud are caught in the updrafts and lifted to the colder higher regions (so cold the atmosphere freezes them), downdrafts in the cloud push ice and hail down from the top of the cloud.
Electrons are then stripped off where the ice going down meets the water coming up.
This then results to a cloud with a negatively charged bottom and a positively charged top.
The electrical fields this created become incredibly strong, with the atmosphere acting as an insulator between them in the cloud.
When the strength of the charge overpowers the insulating properties of the atmosphere, lightning happens.
The lightning created looks for the easiest target upon which to release its charge.
Thus, what is usually stricken are the tallest in the area, or the nearest in its path like trees, poles, and tall houses.