The powerful bursts of electrical energy from the flashes of lightning ionize the air and produce nitrogen oxide. This ionization process converts the free nitrogen of the air into its water soluble state which all plants need. Just ask WSAZ home and garden expert, John Marra, nitrogen is an essential part of fertilizer. Lightning also help generate new growth in forest areas that are burned by fires triggered by lightning by clearing dead trees so that seedlings have the space and soil to germinate.
The following list taken from an old newspaper describes the ionization of nitrogen in the atmosphere when lightning strikes:
- Lightning barrage our earth about 100 times per second.
- Lightning is a violent explosion due to the sudden and extremely rapid equalization of electric charges which were formerly forced apart.
- Lightning takes place in a thunderstorm cloud wherein the electric charges are forced to separate.
- The (+) particles gather at the top of the cloud and the (-) particles go to the bottom of the cloud.
- On earth – directly below the cloud, + charges are attracted. These follow the cloud wherever it drifts.
- Lightning happens when the (-) charges in the cloud finally meet the (+) charges on the ground --wham . . . lightning is produced.
- These charges meet by traveling through a channel formed by a gaseous arm leaping up from the ground.
- Lightning is not produced in one big burst of power. Equalization of electric charges occur in a series or in spurts so that lightning is actually a series of powerful sparks.
- Lightning last about one second.
- Lightning doesn’t strike down. It is actually going up. It starts from point of contact and it jets up to the cloud along the path established by the gaseous arm.
- Lightning appears to be going down because it is an optical illusion. Its speed is actually too fast for the eye to follow.
- All lightning bolts have no connection on the ground but lightning can be produced between clouds.
- It is different from St. Elmo’s light in that the latter is really an electric overload becoming visible in the form of light.
- Thunder is the sound created by air rushing away at supersonic speed after it has been superheated by the lightning bolt.
- Below is a great illustration from the NWS on how lightning does this.