Myths and curiosities about lightning

Lightning is still one of the most extraordinary phenomena in Nature. In the past it was understood as a type of fire and it can be found represented as a symbol in most ancient cultures. There even exist mythological representations of its destructive power.

Despite the scientific progress that has taken place during the last centuries, the mistaken beliefs about this phenomenon are still present in great part of the global population.

Lightning as we know it is one of the most destructive phenomena of nature. During a thunderstorm a big quantity of atmospheric discharges are produced that can achieve hundreds of kiloamperes. These discharges imply serious danger for people, animals, buildings and even electronic equipment, causing severe consequences which could be prevented.

Obtaining protection from a lightning strike is complicated when people trust popular protection measures based on myths. Some of them might put your life at risk. That is why Aplicaciones Tecnológicas, experts in lightning prevention and protection, want to confront some of the most popular myths.

Lightning Myths and Facts

Lightning just strikes the ground

There is a popular belief that there only exists one type of lightning, the one which strikes the ground, but reality is quite different. There are four types of lightning strikes depending on the two points between which they are formed:

  • Cloud-to-cloud (CC) which jump from one cloud to another.
  • Intracloud (IC) are those formed between regions of oppositely charged particles within the same cloud.
  • Cloud-to-air lightning bolts are electric discharges where a leader is launched from the top of a thunderstorm to the stratosphere.
  • Cloud-to-ground (CG) occur when there is a lightning discharge between a thundercloud and the ground. This type of lightning is the one we should protect from because its strike presents a danger for life and structures on Earth.

Lightning never strikes the same place twice

Probably this might be one of the most popular myths despite its questionable authenticity. Frequently lightning and flashes strike the same place. The reason is quite easy, lightning strikes specially on high places or objects, sharped or isolated. A clear example that refutes this myth is the emblematic Empire State building.

The Empire State is currently the fifth highest skyscraper in New York, after The One World Trade Center, the 111 West 57th Street, the 432 Park Avenue and the 30 Hudson Yards. This type of buildings were conceived to work as a natural lightning rod when they were built. In fact, according to the official website of the building, the Empire State annually gets an average of 23 strikes.


 If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning

This myth could be one of the most dangerous. The common belief that lightning only strikes during a notable storm is false. Lightning can jump a few kilometers and we could easily be reached by it.

Up to now, the record of the largest lightning bolt was registered in Oklahoma in 2007, jumping horizontally 321 kilometers. This event highlights that distances shouldn’t be a factor to be considered. For this reason, Aplicaciones Tecnológicas offers advanced and safe technological solutions for lightning protection to governments, associations, companies, freelancers and individuals.

We are completely safe at home

At home we are safer than outdoors. However, we should take preventive measures if there is risk of lightning strike. We should take different preventive measures at home, but these are not less important.

It is recommended to avoid:

  • All devices that conduct electricity
  • Telephones which are not wireless or mobile phones
  • Touching electric devices or wires

    • Disconnect your devices for a better protection
  • Close the doors and windows to avoid the air stream.
  • Standing in the open: Don’t go out to the balcony or look out the window

If you are outdoors and a lightning strikes, lie down on the floor

This myth implies high danger for all the people who don’t know what to do in case of a lightning strike outdoors. There are many areas where you could be in danger during a thunderstorm; trekking or hiking, swimming in the sea, in the swimming pool, in a football match, in the park… If a lightning strikes in these situations, lying down on the floor or safeguarding under a tree is not recommended in any case. If you lie down on the floor the risk of being injured is higher, even if the lightning doesn’t strike directly because when it strikes, the current travels across the ground and we could be indirectly injured. The best option in this situation is to look for safe shelter to stay.

You mustn’t touch a person who got hit by a lightning strike

Certainly, this is the most dangerous myth. When a person is reached by a lightning strike it doesn’t store power in the body. It is completely safe to touch the victim and it especially necessary. This person will need first aids and we could save his life and avoid life-long injuries.


Curiosities about lightning

What is the longest lightning flash ever?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the world record of the longest lightning flash in a unique lightning strike occurred in Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, in the south of France, which lasted 7,74 seconds in 2012.

How hot is lightning?

Lightning can reach temperatures up to 30.000 ºC. For a better understanding, this is about five times warmer than the sun Surface.

How many lightning strikes hit the earth every day?

There are nearly 20 million lightning strikes every day, an average of 200 lightnings every second.

Can you get struck by lightning in a snowstorm?

Between 1961 and 1990 there were 229 snowstorms with lightning discharges registered in the United States. This kind of storms are frequent at the end of winter and at the beginning of spring due to the temperatures and the strong winds in the atmosphere.

What are the main injuries caused by a lightning strike?

Most of the times we tend to think that if we are reached by a lightning strike we die straight away, but that is not completely true. Only 3% of the people reached by a lightning strike instantly die. In the rest of cases, lightning causes serious injuries such as burns, traumas, neurological problems, muscle damage, skin or eye injuries.

When are there more possibilities of being hit by a lightning strike?

There are periods when there is a higher probability of a lightning strike. It is common during the seasons with storms, such as summer and autumn (depending on the geographic area).

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