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Breakdown: Why a positive lightning strike is more dangerous

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 1:45 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Lightning can be dangerous but did you know there are different types of lightning that carry different charges? There are positive and negative lightning and while we may think of positive as a good thing, when it comes to lightning, positive is the most dangerous.

Some lightning come from the upper parts near the top of the thunderstorm. This is where a positive charge lives. As lightning forms in this area and travels down, it will carry a positive charge and on the ground will be negative charges.

Fortunately, positive lightning accounts for less than 5% of all strikes. Although there are less positive strikes, these strikes are dangerous for many reasons.

Origin matters and because it comes from the upper levels of a storm, the amount of air it must burn through to get to the ground is typically much greater. This means the amount of electricity transferred from this strike stronger than those associated with negative strikes. The flash of a positive strike lasts longer and can be up to ten times greater than that of a negative cloud to ground strike.

Some positive bolts can happen within thunderstorm and strike the ground beneath the cloud but many positive strikes happen close to the edge of the cloud. A positive strike can happen more than 25 miles away from any precipitation. If you hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning, even if you are tracking a storm far away.

Positive strikes according to research are believed to be responsible for a large percentage of forest fires and power line damage. A positive lightning strike can dominant type of cloud-to-ground even during the winter months and in the dissipating thunderstorms. A positive lightning bolt is usually made up of one stroke compared to a negative lightning bolt which normally consists of two or more strokes according to research.

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