Ask Marilyn

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - Summer All-Stars! - Send ques­tions to marilyn@pa­ By Marilyn vos Sa­vant

Our lo­cal weather sta­tion re­ports the num­ber of light­ning strikes dur­ing storms and notes how many strikes are "pos­i­tive" or "neg­a­tive." What's the dif­fer­ence?

—Bill Ack­er­man, Ho­mosassa, Fla.

Neg­a­tive light­ning, which ac­counts for about 95 per­cent of all strikes, trans­fers a neg­a­tive charge from the cloud to the ground. Pos­i­tive light­ning trans­fers a pos­i­tive charge and is nearly al­ways far stronger. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, pos­i­tive light­ning may dis­charge as much as 300,000 am­peres and gen­er­ate 1 bil­lion volts of cur­rent. It is be­lieved to cause a large per­cent­age of for­est fires and other ma­jor da­m­age.

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