Ask Storm Team 11: Does lightning travel up or down?

Weather Stories

Thursday’s Ask Storm Team 11 question comes from Mike. He asked: “Does lightning travel up or down?”

It actually does both. Cloud-to-ground lightning, which is most dangerous. Typically, a stepped leader goes from the cloud toward the ground in a jagged motion because the electrical difference in the cloud becomes too large. Some of that negative charge gets carried to the ground. Meanwhile, a positive charge usually extends upward from the ground. Where the two charges meet, you get a bright flash of lightning. All this happens in a split second!

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