Saturday morning around 8 a.m., a lightning bolt struck a tree in the Canfield Village Green causing a tree to explode. The tree is a complete loss and the explosion even caused damage to the Canfield Village Green sign.
The Storm Team 27 VIPIR Radar detected the lightning strike this morning as an area of heavy rain pushed through the Valley.
This lightning strike was also unique because it had a positive charge. Only about 5% of lightning strikes have a positive charge, so they are much less common than lightning strikes with negative charge.
Another unique fact about positive charge lightning strikes is that they are the main cause for lightning fatalities and wildfires. In fact, positive charge lightning strikes are more powerful on average compared to negative charged strikes.
The average negative cloud-to-ground lightning strike is comprised of 30 kiloamps of current and 15 coulombs of electric charge. The average positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike is much stronger with 400 kiloamps of current and hundreds of coulombs of electric charge.
How did the lightning cause the tree to explode?
The reason the lightning strike caused the tree to explode is the same reason that lightning causes thunder: rapid expansion. Lightning, as you might expect, is extremely hot. In fact, the average lightning strike has a temperature of 50,000°F which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun!
Lightning heats the surrounding air extremely quickly. This results in a rapid expansion of the surrounding air. Then, the lightning strike stops which causes a rapid contraction of the surrounding air due to the loss of heat. This rapid expansion and contraction creates the sound wave that we know as thunder.
This same process happens when lightning strikes a tree. The violent expansion and contraction results in the tree exploding!