Lightening is caused by electricity. Although we can’t see electricity, we can see its effects. Using bar magnets in an experiment, is a great way to understand lightening. Each end of the magnet is marked with either a + or -. The + stands for a positive charge and the - represents the negative charge. Place the magnets on a table and aim the + side of one magnet with the - side of the other magnet. Now let the magnets go and they will race toward each other. This is because opposite ends of the magnet (opposite charges) attract each other. Now turn on of the magnets around so that both magnets positive sides are facing each other. The magnets will push away from each other because like charges do not attract each other. Again, for an in depth look at why this occurs, please review the past articles on magnetism.Now that you understand a little about how electrical charges work, let’s look at clouds.
Clouds are made of many drops of water. When these drops get big and heavy they fall to the earth as rain. While these drops are still in the cloud they have either a + or - charge. When a group of water droplets with a positive charge come near a group of water droplets with a negative charge a spark occurs. We can see this spark. This spark is lightening. The opposite charges attract each other, just as the magnets did.

Sometimes an entire cloud (or at least the majority of the cloud) has a positive or negative charge. When two clouds of opposite charges travel near each other you will be able to see lightening flash between the clouds.

Each year millions of lightening flashes travel from the clouds to the ground. Lightening is very powerful and very dangerous. Many fires are caused by lightening. Lightening can travel through the wires of your home and destroy home appliances.
During a lightening storm you should always seek shelter indoors. If you are in your car, stay in it. If you are outside during a storm, lie down in the lowest area you can find. Never stand under a tree during a lightening storm.

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