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10 weird facts about lightning strikes

From strange lightning strike rashes to exploding trees, these lightning facts will, well, shock you.

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You can't have thunder without lightning
You can't have thunder without lightning
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That’s because thunder is the sound caused by lightning. A charged, superheated lightning bolt creates a “resonating tube” as it travels. The air in the tube rapidly expands and contracts causing vibrations that you hear as the rumble of thunder.
 

Lightning-strike victims develop a strange rash
Lightning-strike victims develop a strange rash
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One of the lightning facts most people don’t know is that those who are struck by lightning are often temporarily covered with what’s known as red Lichtenberg figures, which are branching, tree-like patterns created by the passage of high voltage electrical discharges along the skin.
 

Lightning strikes can explode a tree
Lightning strikes can explode a tree
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Imagine 15 million volts of electricity hitting a tree branch. The most likely result? The heat travels through the tree, vaporising its sap and creating steam that causes the trunk to explode.
 

Lightning strikes hundreds of times per hour over one lake
Lightning strikes hundreds of times per hour over one South American lake
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Bolts of light illuminate the sky above the intersection of the Catatumbo River and Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela more than 300 nights a year, often flashing several times a second. Warm trade winds from the Caribbean Sea mix with cool air descending from the Andes to create an unusual weather pattern that helped the area set a record for the world’s most lightning bolts per square kilometre last year. This is one of the lightning facts that hardly anyone knows.
 

Petrified lightning is real
Petrified lightning is real
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When lightning strikes sand or rock, the extreme heat can fuse minerals beneath the surface into a tube called a fulgurite. Though relatively rare, these “lightning fossils” have been found worldwide.
 

A lot of people are afraid of getting hit by lightning
A lot of people are afraid of getting hit by lightning
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The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are a tiny 1 in 12,000, yet astraphobia is among the top ten most common phobias experienced by people, behind acrophobia (fear of heights) and claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). Animals are also known to suffer from fear of thunder and lightning. But beware: Scientists say climate change may increase the chances to about 1 in 8,000 by the year 2100. Normal or not, most phobias can be explained.
 

Lightning is hot
Lightning is hot
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Lightening facts you already know are that it can explode a tree and leave a rash on people it strikes. Both of these effects are due to how hot lightning actually is. A flash of lightning can make the air around it five times hotter than the sun.
 

Lightning travels between clouds
Lightning travels between clouds
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Though 100 cloud-to-ground lightning bolts hit the Earth’s surface every second, some of the most common types of lightning don’t hit Earth. This type of lightning is called a cloud flash.
 

Lightning can strike without rain
Lightning can strike without rain
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The lightning strikes that often cause bushfires occur without the rainstorms you’re used to associating with them. Dry lightning is the major cause of bushfires across Australia, and is more common in central Queensland.

 

You see ground-up lightning
You see ground-up lightning
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When you see a bolt of lightning, it’s not actually cloud-to-ground lightning. One of the lightning facts that are often a misconception is that you see lightning hitting the Earth. In fact, what you see during a thunderstorm is the complete opposite. The lightning that comes down from the clouds has a negative electric charge and the objects on Earth typically have a positive charge. Like the old saying goes, opposites attract; so when the lightning strikes the object on the ground a visible flash will zoom from the ground-up. Yes, it zooms at about one-millionth of a second.

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