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What causes a lightning strike?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. Lightning is a natural phenomenon in which large amounts of electricity are discharged from one location to another through open air, resulting in a bright arc of light. During an electrical storm, clouds begin to build up powerful electric fields, eventually ionizing the air around them and developing a powerful current. These areas, called step leaders, form paths of ionized air (or plasma) that slowly make their way toward the Earth. If a step leader makes contact with another ionized path, called a positive streamer, it creates a completed path for the plasma to travel on, allowing the accumulated current in the cloud to travel between the two points. This results in a lightning bolt and an explosion of air, which we call thunder.

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