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- An electric discharge between cloud and earth, between clouds or between the charge centers of the same cloud is known as
- Lightning is a huge spark and takes place when clouds are charged to such a high potential (+ve or −ve) with respect to earth or a neighboring cloud that the dielectric strength of neighboring medium (air) is destroyed.
- There are several theories which exist to explain how the clouds acquire charge. The most accepted one is that during the uprush of warm moist air from earth, the friction between the air and the tiny particles of water causes the building up of charges.
- When drops of water are formed, the larger drops become positively charged and the smaller drops become negatively charged. When the drops of water accumulate, they form clouds, and hence cloud may possess either a positive or a negative charge, depending upon the charge of drops of water they contain.
- The charge on a cloud may become so great that it may discharge to another cloud or to earth and we call this discharge as lightning. The thunder which accompanies lightning is due to the fact that lightning suddenly heats up the air, thereby causing it to expand. The surrounding air pushes the expanded air back and forth causing the wave motion of air which we recognize as thunder.