Encyclopedia of Natural Hazards

2013 Edition
| Editors: Peter T. Bobrowsky

Lightning

  • Leopoldo C. Cancio
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4399-4_218

Definition

Lightning is a sudden, massive discharge of electrical current, most commonly arising from thunderstorms (but rarely from forest fires, volcanic eruptions, or dust storms). Lightning discharges can be classified as cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-air, or cloud-in-cloud. Lightning is the second leading cause of weather-related death, as well as a fascinating (and incompletely understood) natural phenomenon.

History

Since ancient times, lightning has both stimulated awe and symbolized the divine. Lightning is the instrument by which Zeus, in the IliadChap. VIII, acts against the Achaeans: “Then he thundered aloud from Ida, and sent the glare of his lightning upon the Achaeans; when they saw this, pale fear fell upon them and they were sore afraid.” Among the most beautiful passages in the Bible are references to lightning. Psalm 144:6 depicts it as a manifestation of God’s power, and the psalmist prays, “Cast forth lightning, and scatter them: shoot out thine...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Army Institute of Surgical ResearchColonel, Medical Corps, U.S. ArmyFort Sam HoustonUSA