How Lightning Works

By: John Zavisa

Types of Strikes and Types of Lightning

Wild cloud-to-cloud lightning illuminates the night sky.
Wild cloud-to-cloud lightning illuminates the night sky.
© Photographer: Jcpjr | Agency:
  • Cloud to ground -Discussed previously
  • Ground to cloud -The same as above with the exception that usually a tall, earth-bound object initiates the strike to the cloud
  • Cloud to cloud - Also the same mechanics as discussed above except the strike travels from one cloud to another

Types of Lightning

  • Normal lightning - Discussed previously
  • Sheet lightning - Normal lightning that is reflected in the clouds
  • Heat lightning - Normal lightning near the horizon that is reflected by high clouds
  • Ball lightning - A phenomenon where lightning forms a slow, moving ball that can burn objects in its path before exploding or burning out
  • Red sprite -A red burst reported to occur above storm clouds and reaching a few miles in length (toward the stratosphere)
  • Blue jet - A blue, cone-shaped burst that occurs above the center of a storm cloud and moves upward (toward the stratosphere) at a high rate of speed

In the next section, we'll learn about the purpose of lightning rods.