Where does lightning come from and how does it form?

COLUMBUS, Ga. This week, Carmen Rose answers a question from Nick Brundidge from Columbus, GA. His question is, where does lightning come from and how does it form?

Storm clouds are made from ice crystals and water vapor. Ice crystals are higher up in the storm cloud where temperatures are below freezing. When the ice crystals and water vapor bump into each other and collide in the cloud, they create electrical charges – which are necessary to create lightning.

The positive charges are protons and are at the top of the cloud. The negative charges are electrons and are at the bottom of the cloud. When these two charges interact with each other, lightning strikes in the cloud and from cloud to cloud.

But lightning can also strike the ground and objects on the ground. This happens through the same process. The ground and especially taller objects on it have positive charges. The bottom of the storm cloud still has negative charges. When these opposite charges interact, the same process of the lightning strike occurs.

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