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I How does lightning work? (one strike or multiple strikes?)

  1. Apr 25, 2016 #1
    I am mainly asking if it's possible for a thunder cloud to release its sorted energy in burst rather than in one strike. Like if a thundercloud had 1 billion volts would it be possible to great small sparks that allow it to shoot of 5 lighting strikes of different voltages rather than one strike of 1 billion volts.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2016 #2


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    Sometimes when there is sever lightening, you can see multiple strikes released from a thunder cloud consecutively. Is that what you mean? Usually, you will see one large strike with branches. Then secondary strikes that follow the initial bolt of lightening follows shortly. All of this is an attempt to neutralize charge.
  4. Apr 25, 2016 #3


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    Oh, and this is rather thrilling:

  5. Apr 25, 2016 #4
    Something like that. What I am really asking is say you had a thundercloud. It had 1 billion volts stored in it. Now when it discharges, a single or what you said 2 bolts of lighting. What I want to know is,(with the help of man or just by itself) would it be possible for the thunder cloud to release all of its stored energy in burst of electricity. Sort of like a batter expect it gives off energy in burst of multiple strike.
  6. Apr 26, 2016 #5


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    hi there
    you have a bit of a misunderstanding of voltage. Voltage DOESNT flow in the lightning strike or in any other situation, Current does.
    As the voltage( potential difference between the cloud and the ground, or between 2 points in a cloud, build up, an electric field is
    generated between say, the cloud and the ground. This electric field needs to build up to a point where it overcomes the air gap resistance
    between the cloud and the ground. Once that potential difference is reached, a discharge occurs, and current flows.

    There are some finer details of the initiating of the discharge, you can google lightning leaders and streamers

    During the discharge, huge amounts of current flows, often 10's of 100's of Amps
    Some strikes are primarily a single discharge down the channel path. Others are multiple discharges down the same path.
    I have often counted and or videoed up to 7 or 8 pulses down the same path

    Once the discharge has occurred, the voltage ( potential difference = electric field again starts to build up and the cycle repeats

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