Fish Don't Get Electrocuted Because Lightning Rarely Strikes Over The Ocean, For One Thing
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You're never supposed to use a hairdryer in the bathtub because the electric shock could kill you. So what happens to fish when lightning strikes? Why don't thunderstorms routinely kill off every animal in the sea?
Volcanic Lightning Happens At The Beginning Of A Volcanic Eruption
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Volcanoes and lightning storms are awe-inspiring, fear-inducing feats of nature. Put them together and you have a truly terrifying event. Volcanic lightning is a mysterious phenomenon that generally occurs at the early stages of a volcanic eruption, and it's taken scientists many years to determine its exact cause. It happens in two places: close to the ground in dense ash clouds, and high up near the stratosphere in the plume of volcanic smoke. For volcanic lightning near the ground, research suggests the cause is the rubbing together of individual ash particles, which builds up enough static electricity to generate a lightning bolt. Sky-high volcanic lightning has a more surprising cause: ice. Scientists think that as the plume of ash and water vapor rises from the volcano, ice begins to form in its highest layers. From there, lightning forms the same way it does in a thundercloud: ice crystals colliding build up enough of an electric charge to trigger a lightning strike. Want to see volcanic lightning in action? Watch the videos below.
Ball Lightning Is Still Unexplained By Science
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Far-fetched stories about glowing spheres of light hovering above the ground during thunderstorms have appeared throughout the centuries: a young Czar Nicholas II claimed to see one during a church service in the 19th century, and 18th-century physicist Georg Richmann was believed to have even been killed by one. Until recently, stories were all we had of what's referred to as "ball lightning," which skeptics had attributed to everything from marsh gases to the blind spot of the human eye. But in 2012, completely by accident, Chinese scientists captured the phenomenon on camera. The researchers had set up special spectrum-analysis and high-speed video equipment to analyze regular lightning in northern China. One stormy evening, a bolt of lightning struck a kilometer away and sent a ball of glowing light into the air. The equipment recorded every moment as the ball lightning floated along the ground for just over 1.5 seconds, then vanished. Data from the researchers' video may back up a theory from 2000 that suggests ball lightning is caused by regular lightning vaporizing silicate compounds in the soil, which could glow thanks to interactions with the atmosphere.
Invisible Dark Lightning Launches Gamma Rays In Every Direction
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Dark lightning occurs about once for every thousand bolts of bright lightning. Scientists have been observing gamma-ray flashes that stem from thunderstorms for decades, but dark lightning has only recently been proposed as an explanation. The radiation produced by dark lightning could theoretically reach people traveling in airplanes, but there have been no recorded cases of people "struck" by this phenomenon-probably because you'd need to carry a radiation detector on you to prove it!
Key Facts to Know
Airplane passengers are the people most likely to be exposed to dark lightning. 0:22
Dark lightning is an invisible spray of x-rays and gamma rays that can occur at the same time as visible lightning. 0:49
There's approximately one dark lightning flash for every thousand visible lightning flashes. 1:54
What Happens If You're Struck By Lightning?
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Lightning flowers are an example of a Lichtenberg figure-the branching picture created by an electric discharge-and are some of the more harmless effects of a lightning strike. Getting hit with such a strong bolt of electricity is liable to shred your clothing, cause third-degree burns, and stop your heart. Fortunately, the majority of people who are struck by lightning survive.
Key Facts to Know
Every second, lightning strikes about 100 times around the world. 0:04
If you survive being struck by lightning, here's what to expect: 1:53
Being struck by lightning is not something many doctors are prepared to treat. 3:09