I know that lightning makes nitrogen in the air available as fertilizer for plants. Can a person see or feel the nitrogen coming down?
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.