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What is Positive Lightning?

Lightning striking a field.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Positive lightning is a rare form of lightning that carries a positive charge to the ground, rather than the negative charge that is typically associated with lightning. This type of lightning can strike across very long distances, and with formidable power, making it extremely dangerous. It is often much more powerful than regular lightning, striking with as much as one billion volts of power.

Lightning is believed to be caused by a separation of electrical charges within a storm cloud. Typically, it emerges from the negatively charged base of a storm cloud in the form of a leader, which meets a positively charged streamer coming up from the ground. When the two connect, the result is a discharge of electricity from the cloud to the ground, causing a characteristic streak of light.

In the case of positive lightning, the charge comes from the positively charged top of a storm cloud, and it connects with a negatively charged streamer. This lightning can travel across 10 miles (16 kilometers) to meet a negatively charged streamer, releasing a burst of positively charged energy to the Earth. It is often associated with human activities, especially rocket launches and the testing of nuclear devices.

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Since positive lightning is a unique phenomenon, special precautions must be taken to protect things like aircraft from it, as the protections that are normally effective against lightning are useless. People are also cautioned to beware of this phenomenon, which tends to strike more during heavy thunderstorms and at the end of a storm. As a general rule, it is a good idea for people to stay indoors for 30 minutes or so after a storm, allowing a storm to move away, and reducing the risk of being struck by lightning.

This type of lightning can travel across great distances, so it is not as predictable as other forms of lightning — which makes it more dangerous. It can also travel from cloud to cloud, also across great distances, and it may sometimes make a connection with the ground after traveling this way. The result can be a so-called “bolt from the blue”: a lightning bolt that strikes in seemingly fair weather.

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Discuss this Article

anon270517
Post 7

@anon41414: When someone tells you that you shouldn't "bother yourself with too much (sic) questions", like anon133665 did, you may safely ignore everything that person says about anything.

Always ask questions and nurture your own curiosity. It will make your appreciation of the "raw power of nature" a thousandfold that of others who do not ask.

anon270019
Post 6

Is the lightning rod able to protect the buildings from positive lightning? How?

anon264091
Post 5

Positive particles can move under strong electric fields. Also lightning and sparks start as EV's which are dense electron clusters called charge clusters. These were discovered by Ken Shoulders and you should read up on his work.

anon133665
Post 4

@anon41414: Lighting is pure energy and plasma. There are special physical laws for lightning. And try not to bother yourself with too much questions. Just enjoy the raw power of nature.

anon42166
Post 3

Power is in watts, volts is electrical pressure. Still a lot of power.

anon41414
Post 2

I don't understand positive lightning. The articles I have read describe the movement of positive charge from the top of a thundercloud to the ground. Does this mean that positive ions move toward the ground? Only protons have a truly positive charge. Positive ions have a positive charge but it would seam that for a positive charge to move from the top of a cloud toward the ground there would have to be a movement of matter, a wind, of charged atoms. Is it possible that isolated hydrogen protons accumulate at the top of the cloud and descend to the ground? And move through the atmosphere without collecting conduction band electrons from neutral atmospheric atoms?

anon27219
Post 1

where is this type of lightning located?

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