lightening strikes the ocean

Lightning Strikes the Ocean. What Happens?

What Happens When lightning Strikes the Ocean ?

To me, lightning strikes are fascinating. Lightning is a plasma- another state of matter besides liquid, gas, or solid. It can be over 5 miles long, hotter than the sun, 300 million volts, and over 30,000 amps!

lightening strikes the ocean

It usually strikes land, and deep ocean strikes are very rare. Nearer to land lightning strikes the ocean more often.


When it does strike the ocean, the electrical discharge  dissipates and moves horizontally from the impact point toward land.  It does not move vertically down toward the ocean bottom.


Fish swimming  in deeper water are often unaffected but a fish or a swimmer at or near the surface or even a person on a boat can be severely affected or killed.


Lightning is essentially a spark of static electricity created by a rapid flow of a massive number of electrons- from positively charged atoms (ones with an electron knocked off) toward a  massive number of negatively  charged atoms- one containing an extra electron it doesn’t want. This often happens between air current driven moving graple (forming hail) and ice crystals.

Charge builds up as air initially acts as an insulator – something that does not allow electricity to flow easily. 


Imagine a balloon getting larger and larger until it can no longer contain the pressure from within.   It bursts and in an instant all of the pressure is dissipated into the surrounding air.


The Conditions Prior to Lightning Strikes

Before lightning occurs, there is an electrically charged cloud with regions of positively charged atoms (missing electrons and hence lighter)  at the top, and negatively charged atoms (containing an extra electron and hence heavier,  near the bottom, until a point is reached where the build up of differential charge can no longer be contained, the resistance “breaks” and the discharge between them occurs.


That electrostatic discharge cancels out the positive negative charge difference by allowing the flow of electrons to leave atoms with an extra electron and go back to the ones missing its electron.  This makes everything normal again until  the charge builds up again.

You can read about it here- it’s a good article.


This also happens between the ground and a cloud or two clouds, or the air and a cloud, and as mentioned above occasionally the surface of water when the water acts as a conductor to land.

Any interest in lightning? Or thoughts?


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