Science Questions

If lightning strikes a pool youíre in are you fried?

Sun, 13th Jan 2008

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Bill Gettys asked:

I understand that waterís quite a good insulator. If lightning strikes a pool youíre in are you fried? If thatís the case then how about if youíre in a lake?


We answered this along with Robert Sullivan's question...

When lightning hits water, it suddenly dumps a huge amount of energy into the bit of water itís hitting Ė so very close to where itís hit it will form steam.  When lightning hits sand it releases so much energy it causes sand to melt and turn into glass.  It would probably vapourise the water near where itís hit and cause a bubble of steam which probably will cause a splash.

If youíre swimming and lightning hits a lake it is actually very, very dangerous.  If lightning hits the middle of a lake water has got some salts in it so it will conduct electricity a bit.  You would conduct electricity better.  So if youíre swimming in a lake and thereís a big current from the lightning strike flowing through the lake it sees you as a kind of Ďshortí as it can jump 2m to an easy path.  So it will flow through you.  Youíd get a big current flowing through you which would be very dangerous.  It can stop your heart which is why I was told in the States that you donít go swimming in a thunderstorm.

The fish could end up fried as well then!


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