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Dry lightning explained

By Carlo Falco
Published On: Aug 20 2013 08:06:26 PM CDT

Lightning causes the second highest number of fires in the Northstate, second only to human activities.

There are two forms of lightning - cloud to cloud and cloud to ground. Their names basically describe their actions.

Cloud to cloud lightning never hits the ground, and cloud to ground strikes the ground and can cause fires when it does strike.

Cloud to ground strikes are also very dangerous when they occur in a low-precipitation thunderstorm, or one that doesn’t create much – or any – rain.

Dry lightning can happen in any thunderstorm, it just must occur away from the rainfall area, which generally is very small compared to the overall size of the storm.

The biggest variable is the amount of rain the individual storm produces. Some can create lots of rain, and could have hail with them, and others can have no rain at all.  Those storms form when the air below the storm is so dry the rain evaporates before it hits the ground.

When that happens, all the cloud to ground lightning strikes are dry lightning. Either way, dry lightning is very dangerous.

This year lightning caused fires have already burned more than 20,000 acres and last year, lightning caused the devastating Ponderosa Fire.