Some Natural Phenomena are winds, storms and cyclones are destructive phenomena. In this chapter, we will discuss two destructive natural phenomena Lightning and Earthquakes.

  • A Natural Phenomenon is anything that occurs on its own in nature without any kind of human intervention.
  • For example, the weather of a place, fog, storms, winds, tides, volcanic eruptions and cyclones all can be categorized as natural phenomena.
  • Some natural phenomena can be destructive such as cyclones, thunderstorms, lightning and earthquakes.
  • However, there are some ways with which we can protect and prepare ourselves from these natural disasters.
 Examples of Natural Phenomenon


  • Lightning is an electric discharge or an electric spark that occurs in nature on a major scale. It is caused by the accumulation of charges in the clouds.
  • It can be deadly and cause the destruction of life and property.
  • In ancient times people were unaware of the cause of lightning and hence they were scared of it. Nowadays, scientists have evolved some precautions that can help us prepare and protect ourselves from this natural phenomenon.

The sparks that Greeks knew about

  • The Greeks were already aware of the electric charges from 600 BC. They knew that when Amber (a type of resin or synthetic polymer) and fur are rubbed together, then amber can attract light objects like hair.
  • Similarly, woolen clothes or polyester clothes also attract hair and can produce a little spark or crackling sound when they are taken off from the body. This is because of electric charges.
  • Benjamin Franklin was an American scientist who in 1752 discovered and proved that lightning and spark produced from these clothes are all same things.

What are electric charges?

Electric Charges
  • We know that every atom comprises subatomic particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons.
  • All these particles share a common property in that they carry electric charges.
  • Electrons have a negative charge on them while protons have a positive charge.
  • We know that atoms carry a balanced charge however these charges may sometimes become out of order.
  • An object will be called electrically neutral if it is carrying a balanced proportion of positive and negative charges.
  • An object is called a charged object if there is an imbalance of electrons and protons in it.
  • Lightning is an electric spark but on large scale.
  • Lightning is caused by the accumulation of charges in the clouds.
  • We need to take precautions to protect ourselves from the deadly spark.
  • Most of the substances are electrically neutral states. According to the basics of atomic structure, an atom is made up of electrons, protons and neutrons.
  • An electron has a negative charge, a proton has a positive charge and there is no charge on a neutron.

Charging by Rubbing


  • When we rub two objects with each other they get charged due to a transfer of electrons between them.
  • For example, if we rub a rubber balloon with animal fur, the balloon is made up of rubber that attracts the electrons from the animal fur.
  • This results in rubber having an excess of electrons while fur having a shortage of electrons.
  • In the same way, if we rub a plastic comb with dry hair the comb acquires some charge.
  • When a Plastic comb is rubbed with dry hair it gets charged these objects are called charged objects.
  • When two objects are rubbed with each other, electrons get transferred from one object to another
  • The transfer of charges is responsible for static electricity in various objects.
  • Static electricity is the main reason for lightning


Types of Charges and Their Interaction


Charged objects
  • We know that charged objects may have a shortage or excess of electrons.
  • Objects having an excess of electrons are called negatively charged while an object having a shortage of electrons is called positively charged.
  • For instance, when a glass rod is rubbed with silk cloth it becomes positively charged while the silk cloth becomes negatively charged.
  • These charged objects are now capable of attracting other charged and uncharged objects.
  • Objects having the same kind of charges repel each other while objects with different kinds of charges attract each other.
 Interaction between Charges

What is an Electrostatic Force?

The force of attraction or repulsion experienced by charged objects is called electrostatic force. 

Electrostatic Force

What is a Static Electric Charge?

A static charge or static electricity is an electric charge which does not move. Static charges are a result when two objects are rubbed with each other. When two surfaces come in contact with each other repeatedly it results in the transfer of electrons from one material to another. The strength of an electric charge depends upon different factors such as:

  1. The temperature and humidity
  2. Properties of the surface such as its material


Static Charges when woolen sweater and balloon are rubbed together

In opposite to static charge, there is an electric current. The electric current results when the charges flow or move from one point to another. This electric current results in the glowing of bulb or working of all the electrical appliances.

 Electric Current


Transfer of Charge

Transfer of Charges


Charges can transfer from one object to another with the help of conduction and induction:

  • Conduction: when a charged object comes in contact with a conductor it results in the transfer of charges through the conductor.

  • Induction: When a charged object is brought near a neutral object, it results in shifting in the position of the electrons in the other object.


 Charging by Induction

The process of induction does not involve any physical contact between the charged and uncharged object while the process of conduction requires physical contact between them.

How the transfer of Electric Charges leads to conservation of charge?

The net charge on a neutral object is zero. However, when an object receives some electrons from another object, the net negative charge on the first object is equal to the net positive charge of the second object. In this way, charges are conserved during the transfer of charges. 

•    The process of transferring charge from a charged object to the earth is called earthing.
•    Earthing is provided in buildings to protect us from electrical shocks due to any leakage of electrical current.
•    Electrical charge can be transferred from a charged object to another through a metal conductor. When we touch the end of the paper clip gently with our hands, we will find that the foil strips of the electroscope come back to their original state.

What is an Electroscope?

It is a device that can test if an object is charged or not. Abraham Bennet developed a gold leaf electroscope in 1787.

Structure of an Electroscope

  • Generally, gold and silver are used to construct an electroscope because they are good conductors of electricity. Otherwise, copper and aluminum can also be used.
  • It consists of a glass jar having a vertical brass rod.
  • The rod is inserted into the jar through the cork.
  • The brass rod has a brass disc or horizontal rod attached to it.
  • From the other end, two leaves of gold are suspended.

Working of an Electroscope

When a charged object touches the brass disc, electric charges get transferred from the brass rod to the gold leaves. As a result, the gold leaves move away from each other depicting the presence of charges.

Working of an Electroscope

Discharging and Earthing

  • When a charged object loses its charges it is said to be discharged.
  • When a charged object transfers its charges to the earth it is called earthing. Generally, every building is provided with earthing to protect it from electrical shocks due to leakage of electric current.

Lightning Conductor
Lightning Conductor is a device used to protect buildings from the effect of lightning.
A metallic rod, taller than the building, is installed in the walls of the building during its construction.
One end of the rod is kept out in the air and the other is buried deep in the ground. The rod provides an easy route for the transfer of electric charge to the ground.

The Story of Lightning

Story of Lightning


  1. During a thunderstorm, the hot air moves upwards while the raindrops fall downloads.
  2. This leads to a separation of charges in the atmosphere.
  3. As a result, negative charges get accumulated in the lower ages of the clouds while positive charges accumulate at the upper edges.
  4. The ground is accumulated with a positive charge all over.
  5. These charges begin to multiply due to the increase in winds and rainfall.
  6. Although the air is a poor conductor of electricity due to heavy charges it is unable to restrict the electric flow after some time.
  7. The negative charges and positive charges meet which results in the production of electric sparks in the form of a streak of light accompanied by a sound.
  8. The streak is called lightning and the whole phenomenon is called electric discharge. This electric discharge can occur between two or more clouds.

Why does lightning strikes tall buildings easily?

We know that lightning occurs as a streak of charges that fall toward the ground. Tall buildings and tall trees can easily conduct the charge towards the ground. The air gap between these buildings and lightning is short hence they are more susceptible to lightning. That does not mean that short objects would not be affected by lightning. 

Lightning Safety

Lightning safety

One should not stay at an open place during lightning and thunderstorm. Hence as soon as we hear any alert about lightning or thunderstorm, we should rush to a safe place such as a house or a building. If somebody is there in a car or bus, they should stay inside and keep all the doors and windows closed. One should read inside the safe place until the storm lasts.

Do's and don'ts for lightning safety




Outdoor Safety

  1. One should not stay in an open place such as an open vehicle like a motorbike, tractor, or open fields, elevated places, or tall trees.
  2. One should not carry an umbrella during the storm.
  3. If a person is around a forest they should hide under short trees.
  4. One should not get near to any poles on metal objects.
  5. One should squat low on the ground instead of laying down.
Lightning Safety

Indoor Safety

  1. Lightning is an electric discharge hence one should stay away from electrical wires telephone, cables and metal pipes during a thunderstorm.
  2. One may use a cordless phone or a mobile phone in an emergency.
  3. One should not come in contact with the running water hence one should avoid bathing.
  4. One should unplug all the electrical appliances in the house, for example, TV, computers or music systems. Electrical lights do not cause any harm and hence can be kept on.

Using a lightning conductor

  • To protect buildings from lightning, a lightning conductor device is used.
  • When the building is being constructed a metallic rod having a height more than the building is placed in the walls of the building.
  • One end of the rod is in the air while the other end is buried inside the Earth.
  • This rod is a conductor and hence during lightning, it allows the flow of electric charges to the ground




Working of a lightning conductor

  • The lightning conductor rod consists of pointed ends which are made up of copper wire.
  • These copper wires are brought down along the building and are attached to a metallic plate in the ground.
  • If lightning hits the building the copper wires carry these charges quickly to the ground.

Do’s and Don’ts during a Thunder-storm


  • Open vehicles, like motorbikes, tractors, construction machinery and open cars are not safe during the lighting.
  • Stay away from poles or other metal objects.
  • Carrying an umbrella is not a good idea at all during thunderstorms.
  • Open fields, tall trees, shelters in parks, elevated places do not protect us from lightning strokes. We should take shelter under shorter trees.
  • In an open area, if you do not find a place to hide. Do not lie on the ground. Instead, Place your hands on your knees with your head between the hands. This position will make you the smallest target to be struck.


  • Lightning can strike telephone cords, electrical wires and metal pipes. During a thunderstorm avoid contact with these.
  • Bathing should be avoided during thunderstorms.
  • Electrical appliances like computers, TVs, etc., should be unplugged. Electrical lights can remain on. They do not cause any harm.

Lightning Conductor - It is a device used to protect buildings from lightning.

  • It is a metallic rod, taller than the building, is installed in the walls of the building.
  • The base goes very deep inside the earth and one end is kept out in the air.
  • When lightning strikes, the electric charge goes to the lightning conductor and then it goes to earth. It provides an easy route for the transfer of electric charge to the ground.




  • It is a sudden shaking or trembling of the earth, which lasts for a very short period, is called an earthquake.
  • It is caused by a disturbance deep inside the earth’s crust.
  • It can cause large-scale destruction and damage to human life.


  • The tremors are caused by the disturbance deep down inside the uppermost layer of the earth called the crust.
  • The earth’s crust is made up of several pieces of landmass. These are called tectonic plates. When they brush past one another or a plate goes under another due to collision. They cause vibrations in the earth’s crust. These occur as an earthquake on the surface of the earth.
  • Tremors on the earth can also be caused when a volcano erupts, a meteor hits the earth or an underground nuclear explosion is carried out. However, most earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth’s plates.


  • Some natural phenomena such as thunderstorms and cyclones can be predicted by meteorologists. However, certain natural phenomena are uncertain and cannot be predicted accurately. One of them is an earthquake.
  • Earthquake is a natural phenomenon that occurs as shaking or trembling of the Earth's surface.
  • It occurs or lasts for a very short period.
  • The main cause of earthquakes is disturbances inside the crust of the earth.
  • Deep inside the earth, earthquakes occur all the time however they are not noticeable on the earth’s surface. Sometimes major earthquakes occur on the earth's surface which can be destructive.

Earthquakes can lead to:

  • Loss of life
  • Loss of property such as buildings, dams and bridges
  • Floods
  • Landslides
  • Tsunamis
Destruction due to Earthquake

 Cause of an earthquake

  • Earth’s surface is divided into several layers the crust, mantle, inner core and outer core.
Layers of Earth Surface
  • The outermost layer of the Earth is divided into several plates. These plates are always moving.
  • As they move past each other or collide, disturbances are caused in the earth's crust. These disturbances are called earthquakes or tremors.
Plates on Earth's Surface
Movement of India's Earth Plates

Other causes of an earthquake can be:

  • Volcanic eruptions
  • When a meteor hits the Earth's surface
  • The nuclear explosion under the Earth's surface
  • Although the causes of an earthquake are clear the scientists cannot predict when the earthquake would occur.

What are seismic zones?

  • The movement of plates causes an earthquake. Hence the earthquakes are most likely to occur on their boundaries. The areas that lie on the boundaries of these plates are called weak zones, seismic zones, or fault zones.
Seismic Zones in India

What is the Richter scale?

  • A scale that is used to determine the magnitude or strength of an earthquake is called the Richter scale.
  • Destructive earthquakes have a Richter scale magnitude of more than 7.
  • A Richter scale is not a linear scale, that is, a magnitude of Richter scale 6 does not imply that it is one and a half times more destructive than an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.
  • It rather means that an earthquake of a magnitude of 6 is 100 times more powerful than an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.
Richter Scale and its interpretation

What are seismic waves?

  • The earthquakes produce waves on the earth's surface which are called seismic waves. These waves travel in all directions on the Earth's surface.

What is the Focus of an earthquake?

  • The focus of an earthquake is a point inside the earth’s surface where the earthquake originates. It is also called the hypocenter.

What is an Epicentre?

  • The epicenter is a region on the earth’s surface that lies just above the focus of the earthquake is called the epicenter. The earthquake does not originate from the epicenter.
Map of Earthquake

What is a seismograph?

  • A seismograph is an instrument that can record seismic waves.
  • It contains a metal rod or a pendulum that can vibrate as the earthquake occurs.
  • The metal rod is attached to a pen that records the waves on the paper.
  • Scientists study these waves and then construct a map of the earthquake.
  • This also helps them in determining the power of the earthquake.

Protection against an Earthquake

  • The buildings located in the seismic zones should be constructed in a way that they can handle major tremors. The following measures should be taken by people to make the houses of buildings quake-safe:
  • People should always consult architects and engineers before constructing a new building.
  • The roofs of the building should be kept light.
  • Timber or mud should be used in the construction of buildings rather than heavy materials.
  • The shelf and cupboard should be fixed to the walls so that they do not fall off easily.
  • Things such as photo frames, geysers, clocks and other wall hangings should be placed in a place that does not harm anybody if they fall off.
  • Buildings should have firefighting equipment as earthquakes may cause fires.

 How buildings can be made Quake-Safe?

  • How can people protect themselves from an earthquake?
  • Indoors safety measures
  • One should hide under a table until the earthquake stops.
  • One should not stay close to heavy and tall objects.
  • If one is in bed they should cover their head with a pillow instead of getting up.
  • Outdoor safety measures
  • One should find a place which has no tall buildings around or even trees.
  • If a person is inside a car or a bus they should drive slowly to a clear place and be inside until the earthquake stops.
Protection against an Earthquake


  • As earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth’s plates, the boundaries of the plates are the weak zones where earthquakes are more likely to occur. These weak zones are called Seismic Zone.


  • The power of an earthquake is expressed in terms of a magnitude on a scale called the Richter Scale.
  • Very destructive earthquakes have magnitudes higher than 7 on the Richter scale.
  • The Richter Scale was developed in 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg of the California Institute of Technology
  • Richter scale is not linear. This means an increase of 2 in magnitude means 1000 times more destructive energy.
  • For example, an earthquake of magnitude 6 has thousand times more destructive energy than an earthquake of magnitude 4.




  • Earthquakes cannot be predicted & they cause destruction. Therefore, it is important to take necessary precautions to protect ourselves in time.
  • Buildings in the seismic zones should be designed ‘quake-safe’.
  • Consult qualified architects & structural engineers.
  • In highly seismic areas, the use of mud or timber is better than using heavy construction material.
  • The roof should be as light as possible so that if the structure falls, the damage will not be heavy.
  • Cupboards & shelves should be fixed on the walls so that they do not fall easily.
  • Since some buildings may catch fire due to an earthquake, it is necessary that all buildings have fire fighting equipment in working order.


  • The buildings should be designed so that they can withstand major tremors.
  • The use of mud or timber is better than the heavy construction materials for making the buildings in earthquake-prone areas.
  • Cupboards and shelves should be fixed to the walls so that they do not fall on someone during an earthquake.

When Earthquake strikes, the following steps should be taken to protect self:


  • Take shelter under a table & stay there till the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from tall & heavy objects.
  • If you are in bed, do not get up. Protect your head with a pillow.


  • Find a clear spot, away from buildings, trees & overhead power lines. Drop to the ground.
  • If you are in a car or a bus, do not come out. Ask the driver to drive slowly to a clear spot. Do not come out till the tremors stop.

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