10 Positive and Negative Effects of Thunderstorm

It should be a surprise that there are some positive effects of thunderstorms though the negative effects of thunderstorms are destructive. 

A thunderstorm is violent atmospheric turbulence known to occur in every part of the world although less frequently in the north and south pole. Study shows that approximately 1800 thunderstorms are inactivity at any moment in time and a total of 16 million thunderstorms occur yearly.

What is a Thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is a severe weather condition of high-speed winds that are marked by violent thundering and lightning strikes, it is also called lighting or electric storm. Thunderstorms are known to occur in every part of the world, although less frequently in the polar regions, tropical regions Saof the world are most prone to thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms can be classified into different types; formally they are classified as local, frontal, or orographic thunderstorms, presently thunderstorms are classified based on the characteristics of the storm which are isolated thunderstorms also known as air mass or local thunderstorms, Multiple-cell thunderstorms, and supercell storm.

A thunderstorm is classified as dangerous when ben it reaches or exceeds a wind speed of 58mph, Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by heavy rainfall, hail, and sometimes tornadoes when the swirling vortex of air becomes intense and strong. Thunderstorms are most common in the spring and summer, and in the afternoon and evening hours, but they can happen at any time of year.

Convection is what causes a thunderstormWhen thunderstorm contains one or more of the following: one-inch hail, winds reaching over 50 knots (57.5 mph), or tornado, it is regarded as “severe.” Each year, an estimated 16 million thunderstorms occur worldwide, with approximately 2,000 thunderstorms active at any given time. In the United States alone, nearly 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year. Approximately 10% of them reach severe levels.
Most thunderstorms occur in the afternoon on the Gulf Coast and across the southeastern and western states. Thunderstorms are common in the Plains states in the late afternoon and evening. 

Causes of Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are generated by a synergy of factors.

When the earth is heated by the sunshine, warm air rises into the atmosphere, and the rapid updraft of warm air into the cooler region accompanies a displacement of cooler air to lower altitudes the cumulonimbus cloud is formed when the moisture in the up drift condenses

This imbalance and turbulence in the atmosphere are accompanied by the formation of electric charges on cloud particles (ice and water droplets) Light strike is the resultant effect of the accumulation of these charges. lightening passes through the air so rapidly that it causes a shock which is known as thunder.

Thunderstorms are driven mainly by the latent heat that is generated when water vapor condenses. The life cycle of thunder clouds is in three phases first the cumulus, then the maturing phase, and finally the dissipation phase.

The first stage involves the formation of the cumulus cloud as explained above, in this phase small drops of raindrop form but are not able to touch the ground because of the updraft of air, smaller drops combine to form a larger droplet.

When the water droplet becomes dense and heavy enough it falls to the ground, the thunderstorm has entered the phase of maturing at this point. In the mature stage, the heaviest rainfalls and Hale falls from the cloud. The thunderstorm would keep growing as long as the up drift of warm air is supplied but once its supply is insufficient it begins to die off thereby entering the dissipation phase.

In the dissipation phase, the updraft of air is very weak and the thunderstorm slows down and dies out leaving wispy clouds.

Positive and Negative Effects of Thunderstorm

The effects of thunderstorms as other natural disasters are both positive and negative both on the environment and life on earth.

Positive Effects

Some of the positive effects include

1. Production of Nitrogen

This is one of the most essential effects of thunderstorms on nature for thunderstorms forms a natural pathway for the production of nitrogen which is essential for plant growth. When lightning flashes through the atmosphere it breaks apart nitrogen molecules thereby creating room for them to react with oxygen to form nitrogen oxide, rain then dissolves them into nitrates and carries them deep into the soil thereby making the soil rich for plant growth.

2. Production of Ozone

One of the positive effects of thunderstorms in the production of ozone. Ozone is a greenhouse gas that is very essential in shielding the earth from dangerous cosmic radiation from the sun. Lightning discharges produce compounds known as nitrogen-oxygen compounds also known as nitrogen oxides, these go on to react with oxygen to form ozone. The formation of ozone close to the earth’s surface is also responsible for the fresh smell observed in the atmosphere after a lightning strike.

3. Replenish Underground Water Table Reservoir

Thunderstorms provide sufficient rainfall to replenish its location water table, the water table is an essential source of fresh water, its water is safe for drinking as it has been purified as it passes through a porous layer of soil and can be used for multiple purposes such as watering gardens and farmlands, water supply for industrial purposes, etc.

4. To maintain Earth’s Electric Balance

Thunderstorms help maintain the Earth’s electrical balance, the earth is negatively charged and the atmosphere is positively charged, thunderstorms help transfer the negative charge of the atmosphere to the earth. There is always a steady current of electrons flowing upwards from the entire surface of the atmosphere. Thunderstorms help transfer the negative charges back to earth (lightning is generally negatively charged).

Negative Effects

Some of the negative effects of tornadoes include

1. Death by Lightning Strike

Thunderstorms are extremely dangerous as they produce lightning strikes that kill about 75- 100 persons yearly in the United States and about 3000 injuries. This effect of thunderstorms is not highly probable if one stays indoors.

2. Flash Flooding

This is one of the major negative effects of thunderstorms on society. Thunderstorms can cause flash flooding which could wash away cars, fill up drainage ways, and homes, damage crops, etc. It happens most often at night. It is estimated to kill about 140 persons annually making it one of the deadliest effects of thunderstorms.

3. Hails

Hails are a potential occurrence in the event of a thunderstorm as and are a major effect of thunderstorms as thunderstorms create the right atmospheric condition for their occurrence. Large hail moves at speeds of up to 100mph and can kill wildlife, destroy glasshouses, car screens, etc. Hails are known to cause nearly $1 billion worth of damage to both property and crops annually.

4. Tornadoes

A tornado is a violent vortex of strong winds reaching up to 200mph, it can destroy hundreds of buildings, farmlands, track roads, warehouses, business sites, etc. at its event thereby raising economic loss reaching billions of dollars. An average of 80 deaths and 1500 injuries are recorded each year, most fatalities are caused when people decide not to seek safety at secure locations but rather remain in their homes and cars.

5. Wind Damage

Thunderstorm winds can exceed 100mph and therefore is well able to knock down fences, displace building roofs, damage agricultural farm sites, etc. This is a frequent effect of thunderstorms and one must put precautionary measures to ensure one doesn’t become a victim of property destruction.

6. Forest Fire

Forest fire is one of the major effects of thunderstorms. A lightning strike is known to cause one-quarter of all wildfires in Colorado during the event of a dry thunderstorm. A dry thunderstorm is accompanied by less rainfall but lots of lightning strikes and strong winds, this is known to ignite dried organic matter and the wind is seen to fan and drive the fire into greatness. Firefighters find it difficult to quench the fire in this kind of atmospheric condition because of the wind.

Effects of Thunderstorm – FAQs

How do Thunderstorms affect Rainfall?

Thunderstorms have been shown to affect rainfall when lightning is released. Using radar reflection measurement it was observed that regions where lighting flash was seen to occur experienced “Rain Gush”. The mass of water droplets is seen to increase as much as 100 mm thereby causing an increase in the volume of rainfall.

Can we Generate Electricity from Thunderstorms?

Scientists have estimated that thunderclouds contain gigavolts of potential energy capable of powering New York city for 26min. An average flash of lighting can power up a 100 Watt bulb for more than 3 months.

Since the 1980s lots of research have gone into knowing if energy from lightning discharge can be harvested and stored. To capture the energy released from lighting flash, the facility must be able to capture the high-energy lighting bolts and reduce their voltage for effective storage in batteries.

A group of lightening arresters can be used to generate energy from lightning strikes either by converting it into heat or mechanical energy also inductors can be used to capture a safe quantity of lightening energy when spaced effectively

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