It has been estimated that lightning strikes the earth about 30 times every second, yet it is not completely understood. Because it is such an important component of the storms that NCAR/UCAR scientists study, lightning has been a focus of many our studies and will continue to be, as we adapt the newest technologies to better understand its power and activity on the earth.

The Lightning exhibit, made for NCAR by the Exploratorium Museum, allows our visitors to experience "attracting lighting," really static electricity, by touching the glass tube. Inside the tube, the "lightning" is caused by an electric current that is sent through the gas inside the tube. As the current energizes the atoms of the gas, you can see the resulting trails of energy as streaks of ionized air, called plasma. When visitors place their hand against the glass tube, the hand’s warmth causes the current in the tube to travel in that direction, toward the hand.

To read the text of the Lightning Information Sheet, click on

To read the text of the Lightning Education Activity Sheet (prepared for students and their parents or teachers), click on

To learn more about the division at NCAR that studies lightning, the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology (MMM) Division, click on

To learn more about a current MMM field project, the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS), click on

Other Related Websites:

Kids' Lightning Information & Safety:

National Lightning Safety Institute:

The Weather Channel: U.S. Lightning Strikes:

Lightning @