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Have You
Ever Wondered…

What Causes Thunderstorms, Thunder, and Lightning?

Thunderstormsinclude a lot of rain, strong wind, loud thunder, and bright flashes of lightning. A thunderstorm forms from the rapid upward movement of warm, moist air. As this air rises higher, it cools, condenses, and forms cumulonimbus clouds. Ice crystals form at the top of these clouds and begin falling down through the clouds, toward Earth’s surface, as rain. At this point, thunder and lightning usually begin.

Thunder  and  Lightning

All things are made up of matter, and matter is made up of tiny pieces called molecules. Sometimes molecules cause objects to have electrical charges. Some things have negative charges, and some have positive charges. Opposite charges (a positive and a negative) are attracted to each other, while like charges (two positives or two negatives) repel (try to get away from) each other.

When you run across carpet and then touch a doorknob, your hand might get a little electric shock. That was static electricity, which can also make your hair stand on end or a balloon stick to the wall. All of this happens because the positive charges of one object attract the negative charges of the other.

Lightningalso happens because of static electrical charges. In a big storm cloud, there are lots of positive and negative charges. Most of the positive charges are at the top of the cloud, and the negative ones are at the bottom. The ground has a positive charge, so the negative charges in the cloud and the positive charges on the ground are attracted to each other and pull toward each other. When they get close enough, they will meet somewhere between the cloud and the ground and cause a flash of light, called lightning. Lightning makes a crooked path in the sky, as it moves away from things that block its way, like wind or rain.

That bright flash of light that you see, although it lasts less than a second, has a lot of electrical charge! It can give a dangerous electric shock to whatever it comes in contact with.

Thunderis a result of lightning. The lightning super-heats the molecules in the air around it, and makes them expand and move apart from each other. This causes vibrations – which are the sounds we hear when there is thunder. Even though the sound of thunder begins with the lightning, we see the lightning before we hear the thunder, because it takes longer for sound to travel than for light. So the light reaches our eyes before the sound goes to our ears.


At any given moment, there are over 1,800 thunderstorms going on around the world!

Calculated Cheshbon

It is possible to estimate the distance between you and a flash of lightning. If you observe lightning, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide that number by five to get the distance in miles. So, if you see lightning and it takes five seconds before you hear the thunder, the lightning is one mile away.

Torah Tidbit

A Divine Wake-up Call

The Gemara in Berachot (59a) says that thunder was created in order to “straighten out the crookedness of the heart.” In other words, the purpose of thunder is to put the fear of Hashem into people’s hearts.

Because of the sophisticated technology we have nowadays, it is often easy to forget that Hashem runs the world. But with all the technological advances we have, we still cannot control the weather. The frightening sound of thunder is Hashem’s reminder to us that He is in charge. When we hear thunder, we should realize that we are not in control of any aspect of our lives; it is Hashem Who runs the entire world.

The Human

United States park ranger Roy “Human Lightning Rod” Sullivan got his nickname because he was struck by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977 and survived them all! He holds the world record for being struck by lightning more recorded times than any other human being.

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