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This photo shows a dramatic lightning display over the plains east of Boulder, CO.
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Image Courtesy of University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Carlye Calvin

Types of Lightning

Lightning occurs during a thunderstorm. Most lightning takes place within a single cloud. Sometimes lightning moves from a cloud to the ground. Other times it jumps from one cloud to another or into the air around it.

Most of the lightning we see looks like a single line of bright light, which is called streak lightning. Some other types of lightning include the following: forked lightning is when a second lightning stroke follows a zigzagging pattern and looks like branches; ribbon lightning is separated by the wind and looks like parallel streaks of light; and sheet lightning is hidden by the clouds and we just see the whole sky as a flash of light.

Last modified May 27, 2010 by Becca Hatheway.

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