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22.006 Flickering high-voltage current torches


Axel Bojanowski, Patrick Stotz and Achim Tack
Thunderstorm atlas: So frequent are lightning flashes in Germany, 26.07.2016
Spiegel Online, Science

At the edge of the Alpine country the risk to be hit by a lightning flash is seven times higher than in Schleswig-Holstein.

In the south and the south east of the republic the danger of lightning flashes is higher than in the north. Except in foothills of the Alps there are flashes of lightning particularly frequent in the Erzgebirge and on the Swabian mountains; particularly few at the coast and in the north German lowland.

The cause of the large differences in the area of the federation is above all mountains and the difference in temperature: At the rise of the Erzgebirge, Swabian mountains, the Alps and the low-mountain regions humid air masses accumulate above all in summer. If they rise, often powerful anvil shaped thunderstorm clouds spring up – the perfect milieu for the flickering high-voltage current torches.

Last year the Bavarian city Schweinfurt was leader with 4.5 strikings per square kilometre – that were double as much lightning flashes as there strike in the long-standing average. Kiel brought up the rear with 0.18 hits.

In worldwide comparison of course the German lightning strongholds are behind: In tropical regions more than 200 lightning flashes per square kilometre are measure at some places.

In principle metropolises are more at risk than the province: In Bavaria it is particularly Munich, in Baden-Württemberg the area Stuttgart, in Hesse the region Frankfurt/Darmstadt. The larger heat in conurbations causes more water to evaporate, hence more energy reaches the air.

Thunderstorms come into being when much moist air rises. Voltages of millions of volt can become free in turbulent masses of air: According to the common explanation particles charge themselves in the clouds with different charge.

Hailstones rub on ice crystals separating positive from negative charges. Small particles get charged positively; upwinds whip them upwards.

Above all particles with positive charge soon hover in ten kilometres altitude, while the cloud in lower climes is negatively charged. As a result positive charges are attracted on the ground – a tension of hundreds of millions of volt can be built up in the air. If the electric tension becomes too strong, it comes off with one stroke, there is a flash of lightning.

In a channel centimetres small a current of up to 20,000 ampere flows between the sky and earth – electrical appliances run with just about ten ampere. Finally the feared 30,000 degree hot lightning flashes flash; they are six times warmer than the surface of the sun.

The heat expands the air explosive like; it thunders. On the ground even grains of sand melt. If a man stands within a radius of 20 metre, he is in danger of dying.

A lightning flash is a strong electromagnetic field, which is measurable hundreds of kilometres away.


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