Lightning and Rainbows



From Spaceweather.com

On June 28, 2006, Julie Juratic took the picture as a thunderstorm was winding down over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. A peaceful rainbow split is down the middle by a bolt of lightning. Although we seldom see them together, rainbows and lightning are related. Both are created by rain. Raindrops make rainbows by catching the rays of the sun and spreading them into their underlying colors. Raindrops make lightning by rubbing against ice crystals in thunderclouds. Like socks rubbing against carpet, raindrops rubbing against ice crystals create an electrical charge and -- zap-- lightning.





June 2006 -- When a rainbow formed in the sky people stopped and stared at the natural wonder. But then lightning sparked across the evening panorama as two of nature's most spectacular phenomenon created an unusual alliance. The clash of weather was seen above the affluent city of Fort Smith, in Arkansas. The intracloud lightning, known as an anvil crawler, is the most common form of lightning, with the electrical charge contained within a single cumulonimbus cloud.

Lightning often occurs during heavy storms while rainbows are generally formed after the rain has stopped, making an appearance of both simultaneously relatively rare. The actual electric charge in a flash of lightning comes from particles from the sun sent out in the solar wind which gather in the outer atmospheric layers before creating a strike. Scientists are still divided by what actually causes lightning, with one theory suggesting falling droplets of ice and rain become electrically polarized as they fall through the natural electric field in the Earth's atmosphere. This would explain why lightning often accompanies storms and heavy rain. The same droplets also cause the rainbow, when light from the sun is refracted by the water to cause a spectrum.





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