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How Lightning Works

      The formation of the initial storm cloud is the initiating process to how it becomes so charged.  Its common knowledge that clouds are formed 
by water droplets they condense as they go higher in the air.  These droplets collide into one another, as they become more condensed these 
collisions become vigorous and eventually lead to electrons being knocked off and falling to the lower end of the cloud while the protons 
continue up to the top.  This falling of electrons creates a very negative bottom of the cloud and a positive top; this in turn causes an electric 
field to form in the atmosphere around the cloud.  The negative bottom of the cloud becomes strong enough to repel electrons on the earth’s
 surface causing the surface to become positively charged.  This extreme attraction is the layout of how lightning forms.
 
(http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001801-d001900/d001825/1.jpg)
 
This clip shows how lightning can travel through objects and into the earth.  This plane offers little resistance to the power of the lightning strike.
 

    Now that there is a huge charge separation the electric field surrounding the cloud starts to break down the air, as in lengthening the space between the electrons and the protons, this process is actually ionizing the air.  The ionization that occurs leaves many paths that the lightning can take to try and even out the charge separation between the cloud and the ground.  These paths are referred to as leaders or step leaders. The leaders find the easiest way through to the opposite charge, which means that not all cloud-to-ground lightning is in fact cloud to the ground some could actually be the ground sending an electrical current up to the cloud.  When a spot on the earth’s surface prepares for an electrical discharge the positive places on the ground send out streamers that are basically flagging the object as being one that is in position for easy access.  These streamers have actually been known to be purplish or even greenish in color, they are most likely to form on tall pointed objects, but it is not out of the question for them to form on humans.  The final step in the occurrence of lightning is the meeting of the leader and streamer, now the current flows through the path with no mercy for what or whom it strikes.