10 lightning strikes in Orange County

Amber Reed | Lariat

Blue skies and warm weather in southern California create an unexpected home for lightning and thunder this September. With stormy months approaching, who knows what weather California has in store for the upcoming months.

Amber Reed | Lariat

Lightning has many different forms, including cloud to cloud, cloud to air and cloud to ground, which explains why lightning strikes in certain areas and why they look a certain way. This September in SoCal has brought two thunderstorms, and a thunderstorm can be characterized as any storm that has lightning.

Amber Reed | Lariat

Rising warm air causes massive amounts of friction between the cold air around it, and this friction creates a negative charge which is looking for the ground, making lightning strike whatever’s closest to it. This can be a tree, a house or a lamp post. When the ground is reached, the current is finally discharged and the lightning strikes and is able to be seen.

Amber Reed | Lariat

This strike depicts cloud to ground, where lightning strikes the earth and can send shock to anything in its path. Monsoon season in SoCal lasts from July to October normally, and can range from rain to thunderstorms. California experiences a Mediterranean climate and stays somewhat dry throughout the summer, making these particular monsoons rare.

Amber Reed | Lariat

This particular strike above would be an intracloud, as the lightning strike begins in a cloud and travels horizontally in the sky, staying within the cloud. The reason behind these storms in SoCal are “monsoon weather storms,” said Patrick Burke, research scientist for the NOAA, which are “very common in the southwestern United States.”

Amber Reed | Lariat

“The fact that they moved to the coast is the unusual part about it,” Burke said. Since lightning storms are created by parcels of rapidly rising air, they are less commonly seen near the coast because desert areas or dry areas typically receive more storms that would create lightning.

Amber Reed | Lariat

Lightning strikes look for the easiest path, which allow them to have different directions. The energy charge comes from the cloud and lightning is the byproduct. A lightning strike is around 5 times hotter than the sun and as molecules crash together while lightning splits the air, thunder occurs.

Amber Reed | Lariat

When a storm occurs, the number one recommendation is to get indoors. According to a saying used in the NOAA, “when thunder roars, go indoors,” said Burke. Make sure to get to a safe spot and wait until the storm settles. If you can hear the thunder, you are close enough to get struck by lightning.

Amber Reed | Lariat

The air around lightning is extremely cold compared to the strike, so the air rapidly contracts and creates a ‘cracking’ noise, followed by the ‘rumbles’ which are the aftershock as the air slowly cools down.

Amber Reed | Lariat

As southern California approaches winter, monsoon season comes to an end and thunderstorms will become less prominent. This particular thunderstorm in September started as a tropical storm, which is rare in the summer for southern California.

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