Thunderstorms are not thought of to be a very beneficial weather system. There are roughly 3 million lightning strikes hitting the Earth a day! Most people do not like them due to the rain they bring, the heavy winds, the lightning that can cause power outages and the thunder that scares people as well as household pets. Some people are more sensitive to quick changes in the weather and some may have arthritis or migraines that can be linked to the air pressure changes that thunderstorms bring. But thunderstorms have many benefits to our environment.
- Earth’s Negative Charge
The Earth and its atmosphere are charged with positive and negative ions. The consistent charging and discharging happening on Earth’s surface is due to Earth’s upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere. Lightning strikes the Earth when positive charges from the ground and negative charges from a storm cloud interact. This sends negative charges into the Earth. Rain in the storm clouds can bring positive charges into the ground. Additionally positive and negative charges move around in the air surrounding a thunderstorm. As with anything is nature, nothing is certain, and the charges that are sent from thunderstorms to Earth can differ. The fact the Earth is in a state of discharge and charge is thought to have been a crucial element in forming life on the planet.
- Nitrogen Production
Nitrogen is one of the fundamental building blocks of life on the planet. Nitrogen is crucial in all amino acids which make up the building blocks of life, DNA and RNA. Nitrogen also makes up roughly 70% to 80% of our atmosphere. Nitrogen is generally held together in various molecular bonds. When lightning surges through the air, it breaks up the nitrogen that is present. The released nitrogen combines with water and oxygen and falls to Earth. This helps maintain a healthy balance of nutrients in the soil.
- Forest Rejuvenation
Every year forests dried out from periods of minimal rainfall or a dry winter are set ablaze by lightning strikes. Forest fires, if left unchecked, can destroy vast swathes of trees. However, this allows for a “reboot” of forest life. The ashes from burnt trees provide a great fertilizer for new growth. The light exposure from the lack of trees also helps stimulate new growth. Some species of trees even have seeds that are more active when exposed to extreme heat!
- Lightning Rods for Renewal Energy?
Lightning rods are put in place on top of many tall buildings. This serves as a focus point for the lightning to strike, therefore avoiding damaging other sensitive equipment that can be present on top of many buildings. With the focus in recent years on renewal energy, many are theorizing that lightning can be harvested as an energy source. The equipment needed to handle such a surge of electricity is available, but the current costs of this would be far too great. Hopefully in the future we can use this volatile force of nature to power our cities and homes!
- Natural Fireworks!
Everyone loves fireworks, especially around this time of year. There is no better way to enjoy the night and nature then to be in a safe viewing area to watch a thunderstorm unfurl! There is something very humbling about watching the clouds and sky crackle with electricity and seeing the powerful surge of a lightning bolt. Maybe when the technology is made, we can stimulate thunderstorms in the atmosphere instead of lighting fireworks!
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