Myth or Fact? #26 - Lightning can strike from ground upwards

in science •  3 years ago 

There is thunder and lightning, loud noise wakes you up in the middle of the night. You hear heavy rain and look out of the window. Suddenly you see a bolt coming out of the blue and striking next to a tree. Your friend and you enjoy the color and light play. The next strike is tremendous and you hear your friend saying that the lightning came from the group and went upwards. This is silly! How can a lightning bold strike from the ground upwards when every little child knows the bold comes from the cloud and moves towards ground?

Unfortunately the show came to an end and you cannot proof him wrong – or was he right?

In today Myth or Fact? we will see how lightning works and whether your friend was right or wrong!

Much light. Such wow!

Let’s best honest. Thunderstorms can be a very pleasant occurrence but frightening the same time. What exactly is lightening and how does it work?
In order to understand the process of lightning we need to have closer understanding of evaporation and condensation.
Evaporation is the process of a liquid turning into gaseous state. This occurs for instance when you boil water, it will turn from liquid into vapor. This process needs energy as the molecules in the liquid need more kinetic energy to break from their liquid-phase molecular forces. The same process happens to molecules on a surface. Since these molecules are the one closest to sunlight exposure, they receive enough energy to break their bonds and evaporate, turning into gas.

The opposite processes is called condensation and occurs when a gaseous phase is cooled. The steam turns into liquid state. Evaporation and condensation are essential for the water cycle which plays an significant role in today's article.

Fig.1 Transition of water into its different states Source

The process of lightning requires electrification of clouds. Lightning usually occurs in special type of clouds, so called Cumulonimbus clouds. This is a process which scientifically is not as save as houses but is commonly accepted among scientist. In the following I will try to explain how clouds can become electrified.

As already mentioned water vapor rises. The higher the vapor gets the colder temperatures it is exposed to. This is why humid air is required to develop Cumulonimbus clouds, which can rise up to 13 km high. At a certain point the water vapor may turn into ice crystals or put together with other water molecules to droplets - rain. These ice crystals are so light that they move upwards by the updrafts while downdrafts pull larger particles as water drops or soft hail down. The collision between ice crystals and hail leave the crystal with a positive charge and the droplets with a negative charge (the crystals transfer electrons to the falling, larger particles). This causes the cloud to have a negative charge at the bottom and a positive charge at the top.

This is how the electrification of clouds work. Because of the separation of charges an electric field occurs between earth and cloud and even within the cloud itself.

Fig.2 Ice crystals and soft hail colliding, causing charges within the cloud Source

Fig.3 Separation of charges in a cloud Source

The next step that occurs is that a stepped leader (-) propagates from the clouds bottom towards ground. This leader is not visible and ionizes the air, making it easier for the electric charges to flow as it creates a conductive path. The closer the stepper leader approaches towards ground, the stronger the electric field at ground level becomes. In fact there is not only one single stepped leader but man y leaders. We don't see a straight lightning bolt but several ones. This is because the air is not ionized equally. Since same charges repel and opposite attract, the ground gets positively charged. Objects on the ground form upstream leaders (+) and these moves towards the stepped leader. When both connect a discharge happens and the current can be up to 100 000 Ampere! When you are in the middle on an lightning get as low as possible and tuck your body. This might help you since the upstream leader does not continue to grow and you keep the distance between upstream and stepped leader lower

Fig.4 Stepped leader and upward stream coming together Source

There is a simple explanation for the sound of thunder. During the discharge the air gets heat up to 30 000 degree Celsius and creates a plasma. Did you know the bolt temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun? This process happens in less that one hundred millionth of a second. This extremely fast expansion of gas caused by the heat results in an shockwave which we notice in form of thunder. Did you know that you can estimate the distance of the lightning simply by counting the seconds between flash and thunder? Dividing this number by three give you the distance in kilometers! Try it out next time and lets hope you can count at least to three.

To get back to our question: Can a lightning strike go from ground to cloud? Yes, it can! When there is a tall object that is bound to earth such as skyscrapers, the initial strike will happen the other way around. A stepped leader will propagate from the ground towards clouds. There are also cloud to cloud strikes.

Myth or Fact? #25 - Bats are blind
Myth or Fact? #24 – Watermelon Seeds will grow inside your Stomach
Myth or Fact? #23 – Tea has Theine and Coffee has Caffeine
Myth or Fact? #22 - You have to wait an hour to swim after eating
Myth or Fact? #21 - Stretching before exercise is dangerous
Myth or Fact? #20 – A Penny dropped off the Empire State Building kills you
Myth or Fact? #19 – Cold weather makes you catch a cold
Myth or Fact? #18 – Hair and nails keep growing after death
Myth or Fact? #17 – Cockroaches can survive a nuclear catastrophe
Myth or Fact? #16 – Skin on heated milk is dangerous
Myth or Fact? #15 - Survive a falling elevator by jumping up as it hits the floor
Myth or Fact? #14 - Mosquitoes prefer people with sweet blood
Myth or Fact? #13 - Does Santa Claus exist? 🎅
Myth or Fact? #12 - Acid and Base saves Life
Myth or Fact? #11 – Glass is a liquid
Myth or Fact? #10 – During summer the Eiffel Tower is taller
Myth or Fact? #9 - Hot water freezes faster than cold water
Myth or Fact? #8 - Oxygen runs out in overfilled rooms
Myth or Fact? #7 – Does a mirror swap left and right?
Myth or Fact? #6 – Radioactive contaminated waste glows green
Myth or Fact? #5 – Does drinking distilled water kill you?
Myth or Fact? #4 - We only use 10% of our Brain
Myth or Fact? #3 - Is it colder during Winter because the Sun is further?
Myth or Fact? #2- The world's most famous equation: E=mc²
Myth or Fact? #1 - The Five Second Rule

Thanks for reading this episode of Myth or Fact! If you enjoyed it feel free to resteem and leave a comment! I would love to know what you think about lightning's!

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Cool series, I'll be sure to read up on part 1 to 24. Always been interested in the science behind things. Good job :-)


Wow 😳 this is really exciting stuff to know. I honestly didn't wake up this morning knowing I'd learn this much about thunder & lighting. Here in Hawaii we don't really see lightning, definitely a whole bunch of rain and thunder but rarely any lightning lol ^_^ hey thanks for posting @timsaid ! Followed!

Thanks for the great feedback! I'm sure there are other things in Hawaii that I didn't see

Hey no problem ^_^ haha and yes probably so. Thanks for an awesome post!

Interesting read! Love tropical storms, with plenty of lighting activity
Managed to capture this in Perhentian Islands in northern Malaysia last 2016


I can't say the same for my town :D, but here we have lots of rainbows.


Oh yeah rainbows are the beezneez! 🌈😎

Resteemed. I love these. I look at the title and I'm like 'yeah yeah I know', then I open it and suddenly I know nothing. Great ideas ^__^

Great article, again! Wow, I have always been in awe of lightning and thunder since I was a little kid and keep on being amazed by their powers.

"During the discharge the air gets heat up to 30 000 degree Celsius and creates a plasma." Now, I guess, the question would be What is plasma? Knowing that the resulting effect of lightning heats up the ambient air hotter than the surface of the sun was also pretty darn cool a fact! ;)

Thanks again for the education, great clear schematics and videos. Namaste :)

Very interesting! Thank you for that! Good read!

In 20016 my friend was hit by a light he die in a sec i miss him...good post nice share

This is very sad. May he rest in peace

Thanks men.

never underestimate the power of mother nature..thanks for sharing

The stronger of all power

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

you are correct @timsaid. Even as unfair and brutal mother nature can be sometimes, its positivities is what gave life to our planet...we have to honor, love, respect and appreciate mother nature and yes do everything to support and give back to our environment...

Mind = Blown

Good choice of myth, I always asked myself as a child the same question :D

Really? That's awesome!

Pretty cool, if it comes up in a quiz I'll send u a tip! :)

This is a great article, explaining a difficult concept in a way that everyone can understand. Upvoted and followed.

That's what I try to achieve with Myth or Fact.
Thank you


Man! This looks AWESOME

This post received a 1% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @timsaid! For more information, click here!

Yes very true indeed lighting can strike from the sky beacuse the electrons up need positive ones so they strike and take em up, but there is the other time when it strikes from the ground to the sky. Nice research very true indeed. Keep at it

i was not aware of this that light can strike from the ground as well thanks for the nice info...

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Well as @Timsaid he included on his post, but as far as i know ground to sky is a positive lightning and there are 2 others as well the cloud to cloud and the other one part of cloud to another

Can we have a myth or fact about the spherical lighting too?


  ·  3 years ago (edited)

This danger too be hit by one is everywhere ;)

BTW: just joined your contest

great! will check it out

Lol, i already knew this was no myth, i have seen it happen, and as a physician i knew it was possible theoretically...

I never saw a ground-to-cloud strike. Would love to!


I wouldn't want to fight her!

Me either.

@timsaid thats good article but its just a convention that charges travel from positive to negative actually inverse happens in reality

This post Is awesome man, Thank you so much for sharing.

This is great! Thanks!!

I did t even know this was a myth.. In fact I didn't even know this was possible?!

lol :) That's cool!

Wow never knew Thunder could be interesting !

It's even beautiful, right?

yes amazing ! please keep me updated !

Thunderstorms can be a very pleasant occurrence but frightening the same time. -- I agree!

People say -- when you are telling a lie, lightning will strike you. :D

You better take care!

Resteemed & followed dont mind me im new to this..Your article was interesting ☺ Ive been scared of lightening and thunder since i was a kid and i am 26 years old and still frights me lol @timsaid

Oh that happens :)

woah, certainly didn't know about this one, nature is definitely one crazy dude!

Oh yes!

Having watched many thunderstorms and seen first hand lightning starting from the ground making a path.

Although I know most of the (short) answers to the questions, I really like to read the whole answer you present us with.

I'm a biology teacher in the Netherlands, so I hear a lot of misconceptions every day. If you want I can, if you ever run out of ideas, help you with inspiration.

And what about the lightning katatumbo?

Wow! you really struck me with that one!

No pun intended? Haha

Decide that for your self xD

I know I have seen photos of the tiny sparks of lightening forming on the ground before they leap into the sky. Can't find an example on the web just now.

I know what you mean :)

oh my gosh! this is amazing.

I'm scared of lightning. I lost my freind to lightning.

Quite good article. I did not realize the act of the hail and ice crystals colliding is what makes the Charge within the clouds.

(when you stated, "This causes the cloud to have a negative charge at the bottom and a positive charge at the top" )

Certainly was enthralled by the #VIDEO of Upward lightning - at 1 Min. 49 Seconds in, it kind of looked like a Tree .

Also, appreciated your 'Myth or Fact' fun facts. Thanks for pausing out of yr day to provide us entertainment

Awesome article Tim. I talk about this often :D

The earth is a giant battery/ fuel cell. A big enough charge difference creates an arc of lightning. Solar energy stirs shit up and boom! God's super welder!!!

wow! no way!

He taught me how to get the right steemit blog so I can earn a lot of money

Thank you for great and understandable explanation, lighting alwas was a mystery for me.

Thanks for the great feedback!

Hello @timsaid. PLEASE HELP us to save the Abongphen Highland Forest in Cameroon. We have just started with our crowdfunding on Steemit to get resources to protect and restore 1000 hectares of the precious mountain forest in Kedjom-Keku village. We would like to avoid the worst which could happened (actually already happening) - lack of water. Let´s use Steemit to achieve our dream and necessity. Thank you plenty for your resteems, upvotes, promotion or donation. Follow @kedjom-keku

this is really exiting. this will really help in the long run. thanks for sharing this fact with us....

Amazing how much energy can be stored in water vapor and little ice crystals.

This is fascinating, Really didn't knew that lightning can go from ground to air also.
By the this is one of the very few myth or fact questions, where answer is yes!!!! ;)

What kind of sorcery is this?!?!?!?!

great post as usual.. :) keep it up..:)

This explains a lot I once saw lightning strike in my homeland and it was the most terrifying thing I've ever seen, never really knew any of this before.

upvoted, and followed too, can u too?

that is some goood info

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

Hi! Thanks for the amazing posts :) If I could give a sugestion for a future post: Myth or Fact: Living near a Cell Phone Tower will give you cancer. Would really love to know the truth behind cell phone towers, are they harmless or is there any danger to constant exposure? ;) Anyway, thanks for your great work!

Just got up from bed with a thunderbolt...where I come from we have two major seasons..rainy and dry such since its more of rainforest ...we get a lot of thunder & lightning...your post is a great eye opening on what really happens...upvoted and following g already...keep it up..tks