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Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: How Hot is Lightning?

It's that time of year. A time for thunderstorms! Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick answers how hot is lightning and what causes thunder, along with many other lightning facts.

This weather phenomenon has fascinated man kind well before Ben Franklin discovered that lightning is actually electricity when he flew a kite into a thunderstorm in June 1752.  Since that discovery we now know a whole lot more about lightning but there are still some things we don't know. 

That's why Amy Johnson from Portsmouth, Ohio asks “What are some facts about lightning, like how hot is it and what causes thunder?

Those are very good questions, Amy! 

Let's go over a few of those facts:  Believe or not as many as 100 lightning bolts strike the earth each and every second.  Lightning is about 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit or about five times hotter than the surface of the sun!  With those extreme temperatures cutting through the atmosphere, the air rapidly expands and causes a shock wave of sound which we call thunder.  Usually lightning is no larger than an inch in diameter, or about the width of your pinky finger and can strike as far away as 10 miles from the main thunderstorm.  An average of 87 people are killed each year in the United States but that's only about 10% of people who are stuck are killed.  The odds are, you have a better chance of being hit by lightning than hitting the lottery.  Lightning can and sometimes does strike twice in the same spot.

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