What is lightning made of?
(Lansing State Journal, June 29, 1994)
Lightning is a large discharge of electricity. During a thunder storm, cumulonimbus clouds (clouds that look like anvils) become charged for reasons that aren't well understood. Anytime an object gains a net charge, it will try to become more neutral. For instance, when you drag your feet across carpet on a dry day, you pick up electrons from the carpet that distribute themselves over your body, giving you a negative charge. If you then touch a piece of uncharged metal, such as a doorknob, the electrons jump to the metal and you'll feel a shock. A cloud can build up a static charge as well. When there is a great enough difference in charge between the cloud and its surroundings, the cloud discharges a lightning bolt.
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