Color Of Lightning: Fascinating Facts We Bet You Didn't Know

Siddharth Shirwadkar
Jan 17, 2023 By Siddharth Shirwadkar
Originally Published on Dec 06, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
The color of lightning can be vast, apart from the classic blue lightning we see during a lightning strike.

Lightning is one of the most astounding features when the weather becomes gloomier, and the rain begins.

Lightning is an electrical discharge that occurs in nature. It is seen behind a cloud, and is usually followed by a bright light and a loud boom which is the sound of thunder, which occurs after a lightning flash.

At its very root, lightning is nothing but a channel of ionised air carrying electrical current between a positive and a negative charge. It travels through the air and usually strikes the ground at incredibly high voltages.

Lightning has not only been a part of the weather, but has been a valuable contributor to the field of science. Benjamin Franklin is famously known for using lightning early on in history, during his experiment of proving the existence of static electricity.

He waited under a massive cloud during a storm, holding his ground to have his kite get struck by lightning, proving his hypothesis.

His kite was not the only thing struck by lightning, as the current passed through his body and into the ground. Upon being struck by lightning, he became the author of papers proving the existence of static electricity through this eccentric experiment.

Watching the sky rumble and lightning crackle through the air seems like a fun way of enjoying weather, however lightning is one of the most dangerous things in the world. It is downright scary, a bolt of electricity rippling through the layer of our atmosphere.

To give you an idea, a single strike is able to create an explosion that is equivalent to the detonation of 1 ton (907 kg) of TNT.

Being struck by lightning would cause an extremely large amount of electric current to pass through one's body. It is important to make sure that you stay indoors when the weather forecast shows a thunderstorm, as well as avoiding taking a shower during a thunderstorm.

At any given time, there are about 2000 thunderstorms taking place across the world. Each of these thunderstorms make about 100 bolts of lightning every second. This adds up to a whopping 8 million lightning bolts every single day.

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What are the different colors of lightning?

Lightning is a wonderous freak of nature, and these strikes tend to occur and create some of the most beautiful hues in the sky, and miraculous images of light in thunderstorms.

What are the different colors of lightning that can be seen in storms? Some of these colors are shocking such as red and orange. Lightning colors have different meanings. The spectrum of colors that storms produce through a lightning flash is very diverse. One of them is the color blue.

A blue lightning strike is commonly seen during a thunderstorm. These strikes make for some beautiful scenes of light in the sky.

The appearance of one is seen to be indicative of precipitation that will take place alongside hail. The blue hue is seen to occur due to the scatter phenomenon of atmospheric particles.

To provide another example of said conditions, the blue color of the sky is also a result of the scattering of atmospheric particles due to the radiation reflected from the sun.

A blue lightning strike is often seen as a combination of blue, with hints of white that appear all through the lightning bolt. One of the uncommon colors of lightning is yellow.

Yellow lightning strikes are indeed a thing of beauty. Sometimes, a strike occurs in a shade that is a mix of orange and yellow. These yellow and orange lightning strikes are much more cooler in temperature than the other colors.

A yellow or orange shade of lightning occurs due a higher concentration of dust in the atmosphere. The yellow-orange is indicative of low precipitation in a dry thunderstorm.

An observer can also see a lightning flash that is purple, or a shade of lilac, ripple through the air. These are a sign of a thunderstorm that occurs with a higher amount of precipitation.

Indeed, purple is a beautiful sight to see in the night sky, and to see the sky glow in a shade of purple makes for one of the small joys of life.

A very common color lightning seen during a storm is white. This color is indicative to the observer that the concentration of moisture in the air is low, as well as the lack of dust in the air.

One of the more uncommon lightning colors seen in the world is red. These are known as sprites, and are short bursts of red light above the clouds during a thunderstorm.

Red lightning is an occurrence of weather that does not last very long. Additionally, it is hardly visible from the ground, as it usually takes place a great distance from the ground, high above the clouds during thunderstorms.

To give you an idea of how high the top of red lightning reaches, some have been observed to reach a distance of 62 mi (99.7 km) during a storm. It is created by a positive charge built up, which is rarer in comparison to the negative charge build up.

This makes it harder to look at red lightning strikes since we do not have equipment that lets us.

What causes the color of lightning?

The colors of lightning in a cloud are fun to look at from the ground, as they light up a cloud in different hues, and charge up the air. However, what is it that causes these various colors of lightning that we see during thunderstorms?

The short answer to why this weather phenomenon continues to appear in the sky is gas excitations. Molecules are emitted due to gas excitations, similar to how fireworks appear to create different colors.

The principal of how the two work is similar, except with lightning, an electrical aspect is at play and is related to the appearance of colors. For example the blue color of the sky is a result of the scattering of atmospheric particles due to the radiation reflected from the sun.

The gas that is at play here is nitrogen. The strong electrical free flow excites the gas particles of nitrogen in the atmosphere, with its electrons moving to a higher energy state. This causes colors to appear to us in different shades such as blue, orange, and red up in a distant cloud far off the ground!

What is the rarest color of lightning?

Now that we have discussed the significance behind the different colors seen during lightning strikes, what color is lightning rarely seen in?

It would shock you to know that the color is green. Green lightning does exist. Green lightning is a rare phenomenon that can be seen during a thunderstorm.

Someone who has seen green lightning is extremely lucky as green lightning strikes are rarely seen. It is so rare that the only photograph of a green lightning strike is one from when the Chaiten volcano in Chile erupted. The green lightning strike was observed in the ash cloud from the volcano eruption.

The reason why green lightning strikes do not appear to us during thunderstorms is because they usually occur within clouds. As it occurs inside clouds, it does not appear to us very frequently and when seen, only a flash is caught. If we were able to see inside a cloud, a green lightning strike would appear more commonly.

Some people have claimed to have observed this phenomenon, but it is quite deceptive and there are several situations which can be misunderstood to be green lightning. A power arc caused by the short circuit of a high power line sends up a flash of light in to the sky.

Under the right conditions, the color green can be created, along with several different shades of green such as turquoise.

It makes it very easy for an observer to look a this and mistake it for a green lightning strike. Here's a fun fact for you, people in tornado prone areas tend to think that it is a sign of an impending tornado!

What is the most common color of lightning?

The most common color of lightning is the one that will not exactly surprise you. What color is lightning most commonly seen in?

The most common color of lightning is white. You must have noticed during thunderstorms, the lightning strike that does occur usually looks white in color.

Do not discount white lightning because it is the hottest color of lightning there is. It makes for an incredibly high temperature during a storm. This high temperature makes white lightning not only the hottest, but the most dangerous on the spectrum.

Perhaps this is why the white lightning bolt is the symbol of the thunder God in Ancient Greece.

It is said that the master bolt of Zeus was a white bolt of pure energy, a bolt that harnessed the very power of lightning. The god of the sky made the white lightning bolt his symbol of power in the sky.

What it shows is that even the people of Ancient Greece learnt to respect the energy a bolt of lightning could bring from a single point of contact, sizzling through the air and creating miracles of light.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked learning about the color of lightning then why not take a look at how many colors are in the rainbow or how is root beer made.

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Written by Siddharth Shirwadkar

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Multimedia and Mass Communication

Siddharth Shirwadkar picture

Siddharth ShirwadkarBachelor of Arts specializing in Multimedia and Mass Communication

Siddharth is a talented content writer with over a year of experience in content writing, based in Mumbai. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia and Mass Communication from Mithibai College of Arts. With a passion for reading and music, Siddharth has demonstrated his ability to create engaging content that resonates with his audience.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

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Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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