5 Unbelievably True Facts About Lightning

Photo: Donald Quintana Nature Photography [CC by ©]/ MNN Photo Pool

The shocking facts about lightning strikes

Lightning is a natural phenomenon that transfixes everyone. In a single flash it transmits fascination, terror, amazement, and a primordial awe. And no wonder; lightning is an incredible force of nature not to be underestimated. Here are some facts that will make you think twice about going outside during thunderstorms.

1. Lightning is extremely hot. A bolt of lightning can heat the air around it to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun!

2. Lightning isn't only a product of a thunderstorm. The discharge of electricity through lightning can happen in hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and even dust storms and heavy snowstorms.

3. You aren't necessarily safe from lightning if you're outside the radius of a storm. Lightning often strikes more than 3 miles from the center of a storm and can strike 10-15 miles (or even farther!) from a storm's center. So even if you're far from any clouds, you might still be hit by a "bolt from the blue."

4. The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are about 1 in 3,000. While it is possible to survive a lightning strike, victims often have severe and lasting injuries ranging from burns to brain damage and even personality changes.

5. It is estimated that lightning strikes the Earth around 100 times per second, with about 70 percent of the strikes occur in the tropics. And yet cloud-to-ground lightning only accounts for about 25 percent of lightning flashes -- cloud-to-cloud and intra-cloud lightning are more common. There are many types of lightning, including ball lightning, ribbon lightning, rocket lightning and even superbolts, which are bolts around 100 times brighter than usual.