Static electricity is what thunderstorms and this exhibit are all about. In thunderstorms, particles in clouds bump into each other, helping to create the complex electrical fields inside thunderstorms that can produce lightning.

In the Static Landscape exhibit, the tiny steel balls sandwiched between the plastic surfaces rub against the plastic, causing the build-up of static electricity. An electrical field results that visitors can interact with by moving their hands across the plastic surfaces and watching the resulting attraction/repelling patterns created by the interactions of the steel balls.

To learn more about the division at NCAR that studies lightning, the Mesoscale Microscale Meteorology (MMM) Division, check out http://www.ncar.ucar.edu/ncar/mmm.html. To learn more about one of MMM’s current field projects, the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study (STEPS), go to http://box.mmm.ucar.edu:80/community/steps.html.