Skip to main content
Email Print Share

Dramatic Lightning


Spectacular, powerful and sometimes deadly, lightning is one of the most common weather phenomena. It has been estimated that lightning strikes the Earth about 100 times every second. Lightning is generated in cumulonimbus clouds, which have a negative electrical charge at the base and a positive charge at cloud top. Scientists are not yet certain how clouds get these charges, although they know that they're carried by water droplets and ice crystals.

Research on lightning and other atmospheric weather phenomena is performed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies to provide facilities and support for a wide range of studies in the atmospheric and related sciences. NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a nonprofit consortium of universities that grants Ph.D.s in fields related to atmospheric science. UCAR's primary function is managing NCAR. To learn more, visit the NCAR website, Here.

Credit: ŠUniversity Corporation for Atmospheric Research
See other images like this in NSF's Science360 for iPad app. To download the Science360 for iPad application for free, visit the Apple iTunes store.

Special Restrictions:
This image is owned by UCAR. Before using this image, please read the UCAR Conditions for Use.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution TIF version of the image. (5.6 MB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.