Temperature of a Lightning Bolt

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Lide, David R. Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1996: 14-33. "The rapid release of return stroke energy heats and leader channel to a temperature near 30,000 K" 30,000 K
McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. McGraw Hill, 1997: 74. "The rapidly rising return stroke current heats the channel to a peak temperature near 55,000 F (30,000 K)" 30,000 K
Lightning. National Weather Service Office, Newport North Carolina. "The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees F hotter than the surface of the sun!" 28,000 K
Weather and Climate. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life, 1992. "Striking 1000 times a second somewhere on the planet and packing temperatures up to 50,000 °F" 28,000 K

Lightning is a natural, short-lived, high current electrical discharge in the atmosphere. The path length of the discharge is normally several kilometers. The cumulonimbus clouds of thunderstorms are the most common producers of lightning, but it is also produced by cumulus, stratus, and other kinds of clouds, including snowstorms, sandstorms, and clouds over erupting volcanoes. Lightning can also occur in clean air within a few kilometers of a thunderstorm. More than half of all discharges occur within a cloud. The rest generally takes place between clouds and the ground, with occasional cloud-to-cloud or cloud-to-air discharges. A rare discharge called an up flash, between large storms and the clear air above, may be caused by electrons cascading down from the ionosphere.

At any one time about 2,000 thunderstorms may exist worldwide, producing lighting flashing at a total rate of 100 per second. In an average year, about 100 to 200 persons are killed and several hundred injured by lightning in the United States alone, a death rate exceeding deaths cause by hurricanes and tornadoes. These deaths were due to the exceedingly high temperature of the lightning bolt, approximately 30,000 K.

David Friedman -- 1999

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
A Lightning Primer (page 2), Global Hydrology and Climate Center. NASA. "Sound is generated along the length of the lightning channel as the atmosphere is heated by the electrical discharge to the order of 20,000 degrees C (3 times the temperature of the surface of the sun)." 20,000 K

Editor's Supplement -- 2000


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