How Hot Is a Lightning Bolt?

How Hot Is a Lightning Bolt?

Five times hotter than the sun?

When we think about the lightning bolts, we often think of the risk and the heat. Lightning is one of the most awe-inspiring natural phenomenons. It can strike from a clear sky with no warning and pose an immediate threat to anybody who might be in its way.

So, how hot is a lightning bolt exactly? Most people don’t know that lightning can actually be hotter than the sun! In this blog post, we’ll explore how hot a lightning bolt is, its impact, and the differences between the heat of lightning vs the sun.

The Impact of Lightning Bolts

Of all the forces in nature, lightning may be the most destructive. Its awe-inspiring power has been present for thousands of years, with folklore and legends accumulated over human history to document its effect.

Still, we know surprisingly little about exactly how this powerful phenomenon works. Understanding the basics of what causes lightning and where it comes from is enough to better understand the physics behind this explosive force.

Lightning bolts occur when positive and negative charges build up at different points on a cloud and then meet each other with an electric discharge. On average, these discharges will happen about 100 times each second, and like lightning itself, they move extremely quickly.

Lightning is one of the most potent forces in nature and can cause spectacular damage.

According to a scientist from China, Xiangchao Li, who specializes in lightning research, a direct hit by a lightning strike can create an eruption of electricity that destroys power cables. One example was in 2009, when a lightning storm hit Brazil, causing a power outage that affected approximately 60 million people.

Lightning can also sometimes cause forest fires. One of the reasons why is because it’s an intense form of energy, which causes fire to start instantaneously from its strike.

Lightning vs The Sun

A bolt of lightning reaches temperatures that are roughly 30,000 kelvins or equivalent to 53,540 degrees Fahrenheit. Compare this to the sun’s maximum surface temperature, which is only 6,000 kelvins (10,340 degrees Fahrenheit).

Lightning can reach these extreme temperatures because it is an electric phenomenon consisting of a very high-energy discharge which could be more dangerous than the sun.

On the other hand, it’s essential to understand that the sun’s surface is, in fact, its coolest layer. Its surface seems hot, but it is not as hot as we might think because the sun’s core that makes up most of the Sun’s mass has a temperature that reaches millions or billions of degrees.

How Is Lightning Measured?

Every day, there is an estimated 100,000 lightning strikes on Earth. Scientists have been interested in studying the unpredictability of lightning strikes for quite some time now, which makes it challenging to come up with any accurate conclusions.

With the help of the device that was invented and with the studies that have been conducted, we can now better understand how lightning is formed.

A group of scientists used an impulse current generator system that can produce a bolt of artificial lightning with a current of up to tens of thousands of amps. They were able to generate lightning strikes deliberately, with winds ranging from 5,000-50,000 amperes.

Photo by César Couto

As a result, the generated light was far brighter than natural lightning, with temperatures of up to 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit, twice hotter than the surface of the Sun. They were able to estimate the temperature of the lightning in a millionth of a second by examining the light’s intensity at different wavelengths.

They discovered that the connection between current and lightning temperature is a very logarithmic one. This means that a lightning strike with 1,000 amperes produces roughly the same heat as one with 10,000 amperes.

This tells us that the temperature differences between lightning strikes of various magnitudes are comparable. The results of this study provide compelling evidence for previously theoretical hypotheses that lacked proof.

The Verdict

The power of lightning is something that we sometimes take for granted. It’s an invisible force in the sky and all around us, but it still has a lot to teach us about how our planet functions. It’s essential to know how it works so we can better stay safe in the event of an intense storm.

The studies that have been conducted on lightning are genuinely fascinating. We can learn about the strength of it and how to protect ourselves, but also gain insight to better understand the science behind it all.