Why can’t we direct lightening to specific spots using tall poles or something similar?

182 views

Since lightening causes problems worldwide why can’t we solve the issue using simple metal poles?

In: Earth Science

Do you…do you mean like a *lightning rod?* We’ve been using lightning rods to deflect strikes for centuries; it’s one of the more famous inventions of Benjamin Franklin (though he wasn’t the only one to do it).

You can use lightning rods to “catch” lightning. The problem is that it only works in a relatively small radius. So it’s handy if there’s something you want to protect (like a [rocket launch site](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_rod#/media/File:Atlas_V_551_at_Launch_Pad_41.jpg)), but you can’t use them to protect the entire California region from forest fires. You would far too many of them to be feasible.

We sort of do. Almost all tall structures have lighting rods at the top. They are connected to ground to keep lightning from damaging the building itself. The Empire State Building in NYC gets struck by lighting around 25 times per year.

So we do use these to help with the lightning problem, but having them spaced out over the entire world would be unfeasible. Way too much cost for the protection they may only provide. Lightning doesn’t always strike the tallest thing.

My house has lightening rod. Maybe I’m the only one? Lol

That’s not how lightning works.

We put poles on structures that we want to channel the lightning safely if they get hit but it doesn’t guarantee that lightning will hit them.

It’s a bit of a myth that lightning seeks out tall structures, metal structures, etc. Lightning will take the path of least resistance but it does that every step of the way down. It doesn’t look at the ground and go, “Oh wow! A metal pole!” and then direct itself there. The steps from the sky to the ground all have to be a path of least resistance. If the entire path of least resistance means it hits the side of the building instead of the metal lightning rod, or hits a lower building then that’s where it’ll hit. Lightning rods are only going to be hit if the strike would otherwise have been very close by anyway. This is why it’s safe to carry around a metal umbrella during a lightning storm (you probably shouldn’t be out in one anyway) because if the lightning is going to hit close enough to then be attracted to the umbrella you were going to most likely be zapped anyway.

I feel so silly that we do use them and I thought I had a bright idea.. hmm..