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What is lightening and what is thunder, how does it work

My general understanding of lightening is that of electricity but I get the feeling there is more to it than meets the eye.

My father is approaching ninety years old and I have notice in the recent past that he calls me sometimes when there are storms and he was never afraid of anything in his lifetime not that he showed it so now that he is calling me I am humbled by this fear.

So I went on youtube and did a search of science documentaries and there were references to space debris causing lightening by way of friction I think that's what I understood. Initially the understanding was water drops causing friction with ice until there was more study to discover space debris.

Can anyone elaborate ?

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    Feb 2 2013: Hi Isabelle,

    regular space debris orbits around earth way beyond the Troposphere in which our 'weather' usually forms and the only reference I could find for it in relation to lightening was the rare phenomenon of 'ball lightening', to which some scientists made a connection for its explanation.

    If your understanding of space debris would be that of 'made by mankind', I am quite certain that there is no significant change by it since we entered the space age and for 'natural debris' we have no signs for it to have been risen ever since.

    Every year around the 12th. of August, the earth passes through a dust trail of a comet who once passed through the solar system, and this event is known as the 'Perseid meteor shower'. So if space debris would have any influence on the creation of thunderstorms, our weather would not have any other choice but to 'thunderstorm' while the meteor shower was bombarding the atmosphere, yet there is no connection in between them.

    Approximately 40 metric tons of matter of dust particles and micro meteorites falls onto earth from space every day, so small and 'lightweight' that we take no notice of them, not even visually in form of 'falling stars'. And the only influence I could picture those particles have, would be to help the nucleation of ice-crystals for the formation of snow-flakes, just like 'regular' dust does, which originated from earth itself. As I am no meteorologist, those specialists probably know better, yet I can not picture this 'debris' to cause or influence the physics of thunderstorms as we know it.

    I think the sense of 'fear' is no constant throughout our lives, and newly gained fear without an traumatic incident as its cause, may just indicate that ones general mind is not in 'balance', and therefore worth to be 'investigated' and 'calmed' wherever possible. Have you ever directly asked your father about the reason for his new behavior?
    • Feb 2 2013: Oh I pretend I don't know because he was so strong and if I ask he might quit calling when there is a storm. I rather he find comfort in calling me than to sit alone to proud to call anyone :)
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        Feb 3 2013: I guess you are right and I understand your motive. And you have a good weather status this way about the region your father lives in... :o)
  • Feb 2 2013: maybe responding to fear with a rational explanation is not what is appropriate. Perhaps just visiting with you is the main point.
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    Feb 1 2013: Unless theres some subtle metaphysical question being presented here..
    Surely in the amount of time it took you to write this, you could have found a website detailing how lightning works?..
    • Feb 1 2013: Sorry folks I guess I was hoping for some discourse I will word my question better next time. I recently watched a documentary and there have been some leading discoveries about lightening and so I was hoping for conversation in this area. I will update my question thanks
    • Feb 1 2013: Done perhaps this gives you a better idea of what it is I am looking for
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    Feb 2 2013: How about this? http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/lightning.htm

    What I think Xavier was suggesting and what I am is that some things really are matters of fact or are really well understood. For subjects like that, you can read thorough authoritative stuff on the web!

    When you pose a question of fact to a general discussion site, it is unlikely you will find someone who knows nearly as much about it as at a site with explanations for lay audiences written by someone who is expert in that subject. Often the answers you get from people you happen to encounter online or out and about won't even be quite right.

    Even if by some chance there is an expert here it might be better to look at great references online rather than having that person type out a long response you could get in a second of searching online.

    What lightning and thunder are is a matter of fact that is easy to research to find an up-to-date answer rather than of idea with different points of view.
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    Feb 1 2013: Try looking here: http://www.physicscentral.com/