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Lightning

  • By: Christopher M. Fuhrmann & Walker S. Ashley
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The lightning flash is one of the most visually remarkable, yet scientifically elusive, of all atmospheric phenomena. Though the earliest lightning observations go back thousands of years, perhaps the biggest breakthrough in our understanding of the lightning flash came in the mid 18th century, when Benjamin Franklin suggested—and later proved in his famous kite experiment—that lightning was an electrical phenomenon. Such a discovery set the stage for subsequent research into lightning formation, lightning detection, lightning safety, and even the use of lightning as a source of energy.

To the weather enthusiast, lightning offers incredible visual displays, sometimes referred to as Nature's fireworks. To the scientist, lightning detection provides a wealth of information on atmospheric processes, thunderstorm formation, and interactions between the land surface and the atmosphere, ...

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