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Asked by pritam | 28th May, 2010, 10:20: AM

Expert Answer:

Dear student,

Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms.Lightning can also occur within the ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, or can be caused by violent forest fires which generate sufficient dust to create a static charge.Lightning can initially be formed by condensed water in clouds freezing into hail, then being blown by wind. The wind smashes the hail together, separating positive and negative charges. When enough negative charges build up, lightning is formed and strikes the tallest object near it.

According to the electrostatic induction hypothesis charges are driven apart by as-yet uncertain processes. Charge separation appears to require strong updrafts which carry water droplets upward, super cooling them to between -10 and -20 °C. These collide with ice crystals to form a soft ice-water mixture called graupel. The collisions result in a slight positive charge being transferred to ice crystals, and a slight negative charge to the graupel. Updrafts drive the less heavy ice crystals upwards, causing the cloud top to accumulate increasing positive charge. Gravity causes the heavier negatively charged graupel to fall toward the middle and lower portions of the cloud, building up an increasing negative charge. Charge separation and accumulation continue until the electrical potential becomes sufficient to initiate a lightning discharge, which occurs when the distribution of positive and negative charges forms a sufficiently strong electric field.

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Answered by  | 28th May, 2010, 10:34: AM

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