What role does lightning play in the ecology of an area and in forest fires? Why would a plastic wrap cling to a bowl? These are all about static electric charges.

Expert Answers
bandmanjoe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Static electricity, whether you are talking about lightning, or cling wrap's adherence to a platic bowl, occurs because of a difference in electric charges.  In the case of lightning, a charge of electrons aggregates in the bottom of thunderclouds while a thunderstorm is going on. The ground itself is positively charged.  When the electric charge builds to a significant enough level to overcome the distance between the bottom of the thundercloud and the ground, a discharge occurs.  We call this discharge lightning.  The temperature of a lightning strike can be as hot as the surface of the sun, so it can start a fire.  In a way, this can be bad for a forested area, as it burns existing trees. It can also have good effects, as it burns out undesirable undergrowth that stunts the production of new trees.  It also removes insect populations that might cause disease and blight among the trees.

The plastic wrap has a negative charge, while the plastic bowl has a predominantly positive charge.  The two charges attract, similar to the way two oppositely charge ends of a magnet attract each other.

aliasgermhow | Student

When the lightning strikes touches the earth even for a fraction of seconds,it produces a very high temperature and destroys everything which cames in contact is not attached with a conductor.That's why this charge and temprature is only responsible for instigating fire in forests.

A plastic wrap clings for two reasons:-

1.Due to abscense of air between it and the bowl surrounding air pastes it firmly to the bowl.

2.Due to existense of some electrostatic charge.