Is it true that spring thunderstorms make grass greener, or is it just because it is spring and things are generally greening up?
The Earth’s atmosphere is nearly 80 percent nitrogen and the intense heat (about 50,000 degrees F.) generated by lightning is able to break the strong nitrogen bonds of nitrogen molecules allowing the freed nitrogen to combine with oxygen and rainwater to form nitric acid. When this dilute nitric acid falls to earth and combines with soil minerals, plant-fertilizing nitrates are produced. Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, estimate that, globally, thunderstorms can produce 30 to 175 billion pounds of nitrogen annually. Plants require nitrogen to promote healthy plant tissue and leaf growth, so grasses do turn noticeably greener after early spring thunderstorms.