While doing my daily reading on the Internet, I ran across a question someone posted: "If lighting hits the ocean why don't all the fish die?". I was surprised by some of the responses and left with no credible answer. I began surfing around the internet and pretty much found the answers varied and never with any qualification of the writers source of knowledge . Often the answers were just plain crazy. The following just a few examples. To protect the posters from embarrassments, I will not reveal their names or where they posted. Just the post or an excerpt from it.
"lightning doesn't really strike the water other whys there would be nothing left. but if it did it is because lightning is eletrical and electrical things and water do no mix, got it."In an effort to put to bed this constant unending question, that continues to arise through out the Internet, with poor results, I will provide an answer here. The answer is, it depends on how close to the strike the marine life is. Here is what I found that should help qualify and provide a little more detail.
"It is unlikely that lightning will strike the ocean . There is usually some sort of charge coming from the ground that attracts lightning to strike"
"i don't think lightning strikes on oceans. i learned that lightning actually comes from the ground and up. it's just too fast for us to see"
"the ocean is salt water and salt doesn't conduct electricity"
According to an interview with Don MacGorman of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in an article published by the USA Today on March 5, 2004,
when lightning strikes the ocean or other large water bodies, it spreads out over the conducting surface. It also penetrates down and can kill fish in the nearby region, says Don MacGorman, physicist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).
"Lightning strikes have killed or injured people on the surface more than 30 yards away," says David Schultz of the NSSL.
In fact, the 45th Weather Squadron lists water as the second most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm. (The first is an open field.)
Lightning, however, rarely strikes most of the open ocean although some sea regions are lightning "hot spots". The Gulf Stream, for example, where fish abound, has as many lightning strikes as the southern plains of the USA.
Lightning-producing storms arrive on the west coast of the U.S. frequently during the winter, says Schultz. "Winter storms passing off the east coast often erupt with electrical activity when they cross the warm waters of the Gulf Stream."
But, as Schultz says: "We really have no idea about the mortality rate of marine animals due to thunderstorms." Fortunately, only 10 to 20% of humans hit by lightning die, and probably the same holds true for marine animals. (read the full article here USA Article)
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