Elizabeth (9) asked a question on lightning

Elizabeth, thank you for your question. “How many %C is the air surrounded by lightning?” I am sorry that I had a difficulty in understanding it. Are you asking about the temperature (degrees C) or are you asking about the Carbon (C) in the air ?  As it was a question about lightning I thought I could ask my friends to talk about that. If you want to revise your question you can easily ask it again. lightning-strike

Thanks team, some very interesting observations.

What I find interesting is how does lightning happen. It’s all about clouds. Hot weather produces lots of evaporation of water from our oceans. The hot air and water mixture rises, look at the clouds from a kettle. As it rises, the cloud of water vapour and air gets colder, and colder. The water turns into very small ice crystals which are still lifted by the cloud of air that they are in. As this happens it is thought that the ice particles separate ……. the lighter particles move to the top of the cloud while the heavier particles remain at the bottom.

The water/ice particles have a small electrical charge associated with them. When they separate the charge moves with them. It is likely that this causes an uneven redistribution of the total electrical charge. If you have more lighter water/ice particles at the top of the cloud than heavier ones at the bottom the difference in the total charges could be significant. So ‘flash’ they try to equalise and thus the lightning flash. It’s the process of the ice crystals at the top of the cloud trying to get rid of their excess electrical charge by giving it to the heavier ice crystals at the bottom of the cloud.

Sometimes difference in charge is so great that the ‘flash’ continues to the ground, but if you are in a storm and look at the flashes a lot of them are within the clouds themselves.

Elizabeth, sorry for such a long explanation. It was such an interesting question. If you have any other questions linked to what my friends and i have said please ask them.

Elizabeth. Some additional information ……. Look at this site. The type of electricity that is built up in clouds , before the lightning flash is static electricity. There are some experiments you could try.

(added 20/11/16

Why does your hair stand up when rubbed with a balloon? was Kim’s question

Kim. I think we have something called ‘static electricity’ at work here. I asked my team to try to explain what ‘static electricity’ is.

static
As my friends have said we have met electrons before. These were moving  electrons. They were moving along a wire carrying their charge with them. Here we have electrons that are not moving, but they still have an electrical charge, so they are static.

Lightning is thought to be caused by static electricity collecting in clouds.

But now for your question Kim. When you rub your hair with a balloon. Some of the electrons are moving from your hair to the balloon. Or it might be the other way around …. some might be moving from the balloon to your hair. At the moment we don’t know which is happening. However whatever way it happens one of the objects (hair or balloon) loses electrons and becomes positively charged and the other object (hair or balloon) gains electrons and becomes negatively charged. Then we apply a famous rule about negative and positive charges …..like charges repel, unlike charges attract  soooooo  because we have a negative and a positive charge we have attraction. Your hair is attracted to the balloon, the balloon is attracted to your hair.

think you could work out a way to find out which of your two materials (hair or balloon) is the collector and the giver.

Have a think. You can then give your answer in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box or Ask another Question.