Meteorology has an intimate relationship with chemistry because weather is the state of air, determined by varying temperature and pressure. Water vapor – H2O – can take gas, liquid and solid forms, all in respect to weather with fog, rain, snow and hail.
Lightning may seem like just an electric charge but the chemistry within the cloud to form it is very interesting. As the ice and water inside the cloud move around – particles moving faster because of the increased temperature – those particles become charged. The positive charges separate, moving up as the negative charges move down.
That charge separation creates a “streamer” coming up from the ground that makes a path for the negative charges to travel down to the ground.
The resulting spark is about 20,000 degrees Celsius, hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid change in temperature creates a shock wave we know as thunder. According to the National Weather Service, there are more than 25 million lightning strikes in the US each year. That’s a lot of chemical reactions!
Chemistry is not just involved in the science of weather. The industry of chemistry responsibly considers weather and potential natural disasters.
Chemical companies know the importance of being prepared for any threat, be it a hurricane, an accident or something more sinister. This is why our member companies place great importance on implementing emergency plans focused on protecting the safety of employees and surrounding communities. Under Responsible Care®, our trademark health, safety, environment and security program, all ACC members have established emergency plans, which are activated in close coordination with local, state and national authorities, other businesses and transportation systems.
Storms that develop in the Gulf of Mexico are of particular interest to our members since a large amount of chemical production is concentrated in the Gulf Coast area in order to be located as close as possible to critical feedstock materials like natural gas. However, chemical manufacturing of some kind also exists in virtually every state, which is why ACC members take great care that their facilities are prepared to weather the storm.