How Many Amps in a Lightning Bolt? Get Facts Here!

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

Lightning can supercharge objects to the point of breaking them. But it begs the question, how many amps in a lightning bolt?

Generally, lightning has a current of approximately 30,000 amps. It also typically carries 300 million volts, with a billion being lightning maximum voltage, which is a lot more than the usual 120 or 240 volts we have in our homes.

Note that a lightning bolt’s amperage can depend on certain factors. Nonetheless, it’s possible to estimate the strength of its current.

How Powerful is the Current in a Lightning Bolt?

 Source Lighning Amperage Range Lighning The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Range 30,000 amps Encyclopedia Britannica (1989) ~20,000 amps The Living Earth Book of Wind and Weather 3,000 amps – 200,000 amps Everything You Always Wanted To Know about Lightning Up to 10,000 amps

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that a typical lightning flash has 30,000 amps, as mentioned earlier. However, various scientific findings throughout history have other discoveries.

For instance, the typical lightning strike has about 20,000 amperes, according to the “Lightning” section of the 1989 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

On the other hand, the publishing titled “The Living Earth Book of Wind and Weather” states that lightning’s current can be as low as 3,000 amps and as high as 200,000 amperes.

Another publication, entitled “Everything You Always Wanted To Know about Lightning — But Were Too Shocked to Ask (yeah, we know!),” states that lightning amperage can reach 10,000 amperes with just one bolt.

1. Variations in Current Levels

The power of thunder storms can be measured using different methods. An electric field mill is one device that can help determine a lightning bolt’s amperage.

Alternatively, you can use a fairly straightforward formula to calculate the power of lightning. The formula to use is the following: $\text{Current} = \frac{\text{Charge}}{\text{Time}}$

For example, assume that a particular bolt carries 100 coulombs of charge. Next, the lightning bolt lasted only 0.02 seconds before it dissipated. If so, the maximum amperage of that specific bolt is : $\frac{{100}}{{0.02}} = 5000 \, \text{amps}$

However, answering the question, “How strong is lightning,” typically depends on different factors. One notable element is the bolt type.

For instance, standard cloud-to-ground lightning has a speed of roughly 200,000 mph (321,868.8 kph). Remember, speed can play a role in calculating the lightning bolt’s amperage.

So, take the bolt’s speed into account while paying attention to its charge. That way, you can get as close as possible to an accurate result.

2. What is the Strongest Lightning?

Positive lightning, often referred to as the “bolt from the blue,” can carry about 300,000 amps and approximately 1 billion volts. Despite it being a rare occurrence, this bolt is deadlier than other types, especially when compared to negatively-charged variants.

Conclusion

How many amps in a lightning bolt? Remember, the typical lightning bolt can carry a current of about 30,000 amps. However, this value can differ depending on factors like the bolt’s type, charge, and speed.

Additionally, a lightning bolt can carry as much as 300,000 amps. If so, this “bolt from the blue” can end a life. It’s also the strongest lightning recorded, with power reaching about 1 billion volts.

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