Now that the summer season is officially here, the days are very likely going to get hotter before they can get cooler. With hotter days, the development of thunderstorms may happen more frequently, which also means lightning strikes may pop up more often.

Thunderstorms develop from the formation of large clouds. Heating near the ground causes warm pockets of air to rise. These pockets of air form small, puffy cumulus clouds after reaching a certain point in the atmosphere. Additional heating throughout the day causes these clouds to grow vertically into the atmosphere. The point of growth stops when the cloud starts to take an anvil-shaped form. This is what a typical “thunder cloud” looks like.

Various types of precipitation from within the cloud. Lighter precipitation collides with heavier precipitation, and the collision results in positive and negative charges. At first, the air within the cloud acts as an insulator, but when the difference in charges becomes too great, the insulating capacity of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity known as lightning. The negative charge in the middle of the cloud causes the ground underneath to become positively charged, and the charges are flipped between the top of the cloud and the ground.

To stay safe from lightning while outdoors, always be prepared. Know the forecast ahead of time before going outside or planning a trip to the beach. If you absolutely cannot get to safety, be sure to stay away from open fields and tops of hills, avoid going near tall objects and trees, and of course, stay away from water and metal. Water and metal do not attract lightning but they are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.