With more than three million lightning flashes occurring around the world every day, equating to an incredible 44 strikes every second; what many people don’t realise is the positive impact this has on nature.
It may seem a strange statement, considering a direct lightning strike can destroy a tree, but it’s what happens afterwards that can benefit the land around it. While spring’s warm temperatures and rainfall both help to boost plants’ growth, bringing the landscape back to life, lighting gives nature an added boost, whatever the time of year.
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Many of us can think back to our school science classes and lessons about the water cycle, but did you ever study the nitrogen cycle? Nitrogen is essential to the healthy growth of plants, as it makes up 78% of our atmosphere.
Each nitrogen molecule comprises two atoms that are held together tightly. Plants need to absorb nitrogen to thrive and in order to do so, these atoms must be separated. A lightning strike comes in handy to achieve this, because it generates enough electrical energy to separate the nitrogen atoms.
When this occurs, the atoms fall to earth from the air and mix with existing minerals in the soil, forming nitrates that will help the plants to grow. In short, although nitrates form naturally, being struck by lightning will speed up the whole process. Lightning can be considered Mother Nature’s own fertiliser.
When a lightning strike destroys a tree, it usually travels below the bark into a layer of sap and water. This causes the layer to heat up instantly and expand. The bark is blasted off the tree and will split the wood. This process helps plants grow in the surrounding ground, thanks to the process of “atmospheric nitrogen fixation”.
The plants absorb the displaced nitrogen – a process usually carried out more slowly by algae and bacteria. The intense, sudden heat of the lightning strike causes the nitrogen to bond with the oxygen; creating nitrogen oxides that mix with the rain and watering plants with nitrate-rich rainfall.
The falling raindrops also capture other particles in the air, such as pollen and dust. Rain will deliver this biologically rich material into the soil, while cleansing any grime and grit from the leaves of plants.
According to scientists, even if we water our garden ten times, it doesn’t do as much good as one rainstorm that is charged with lightning – the falling rain helps the thirsty land, while the lightning adds fertiliser.
While we think of plants growing most in spring and summer, winter thunderstorms can benefit the growth process, even in the colder months, by improving the soil in this way. Considering there are 1.4 billion lightning flashes every a year, many of them are benefiting the earth.
An estimated five million tonnes of nitrogen are created by atmospheric nitrogen fixation worldwide every year. Scientists say if you collect rainwater during a thunder and lightning storm, it is better for your garden than ordinary tap water, because it is likely to contain more nitrogen. Store the rainwater in your shed until the garden needs watering again.
Preventing property damage
While lightning benefits nature, nobody would wish their home to suffer a direct hit from a bolt of lightning, due to the extreme damage it can cause. People do everything in their power to avoid their home or business premises from being struck by lightning during a storm.
In the 18th century, it was believed that ringing church bells would repel lightning, so when a storm approached, bellringers would often be called upon. Many church bells bear the inscription, “Fulgura frango”. Translated, this means, “I chase lightning”.
Unfortunately, this dangerous myth led to many bell ringers losing their life. In fact, the worst place they could be during a thunderstorm was in a tall bell tower with a large metal bell!
Between 1753 and 1786, it was reported 103 bell ringers in France were killed by lightning – thereafter, the custom was banned.
Consult the experts
Today, people use more reliable means to prevent lightning from striking their property.
Lightning Strike Ltd. provides professional lightning protection systems to reduce the risks, including earthing systems, surge protection and safe strike ESE systems.
For further information on our expert products and services, please contact us today.