What Causes Lightning?

Photo credit: NASA and Sam Walton, United Press International. This picture was taken with a remote camera hours before the launch of the space shuttle Challenger in August 1983.

Lightning is caused by electrical charges in a storm cloud. High up in a storm cloud, bits of ice are blown around by the wind. As they move, they bump into each other. As they bump, some atoms lose electrons. Those atoms build up a positive electrical charge. Other atoms gain electrons. They build up a negative charge. The atoms with negative charges collect at the bottom of the cloud. The atoms with positive charges collect near the top of the cloud. If you have played with magnets, you know that opposite charges attract or pull toward each other. (The north and south poles of .....

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