Can a person see or feel the nitrogen coming down in thunderstorms??

Ask Tom Why
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Dear Tom,
I know that lightning makes nitrogen in the air available as fertilizer for plants. Can a person see or feel the nitrogen coming down?
Judi Stauber
Dear Judi ,
Lightning’s heat “fixes” gaseous atmospheric nitrogen into a solid form that falls in rainwater. In a singe year, it is estimated that 28 billion to as high as 177 billion pounds of nitrogen falls on the Earth in thunderstorms. A New Mexico thunderstorm study estimated that up to 660 pounds of nitrogen fell over a single storm’s 12 mile width.
Though we cannot see or feel it, the smell of ozone — the “clean” smell that we notice during a thunderstorm — can signal the presence of nitrogen in rain. Grass in our yards responds to rainwater’s nitrogen by turning noticeably greener, adds a spokesman from the Chicago Botanical Garden.

Popular

Latest News

More News