Thunderstorms are created when humid air rises into cold air (via UCAR Center for Science Education). When the rapid cooling creates water vapor, it forms raindrops through condensation. The air continues to cycle, dropping lower, warming itself, and then rising again. Thunderstorms help the atmosphere release energy, releasing heat and cooling everything down with rain (via NOAA National Severe Storms Lab). These storms also help our planet stay electrically sound. Considering Earth’s surface is negatively charged and the atmosphere positively charged, the bond between the two conducts massive amounts of electricity. In order to keep that electrical balance in check (no, we’re not talking about utilities here), negatively-charged lightning helps transfer negative charges back down to Earth.
Although the chance of being struck by lightning is less than one in a million per year with a 90% survival rate (via CDC), we spent our childhoods being told to avoid metal things and swimming in the rain. Considering what we’ve learned, lightning is a pretty cool cat for the bad rap it’s earned. It even helps create and sustain our ozone layer with the oxygen it produces — protecting us from peril via UV radiation — and produces nitrate from nitrogen, which is a fertilizer needed for plants to grow and life to thrive on this planet (via Earth Eclipse). Lightning also creates oxidants, reacting with and cleansing the atmosphere of pollutants like methane (via Science News for Students).