# How much energy is in a lightning strike?

According to Wikipedia an average lightning strike has $1$ TW power, the whole world used $16$ TW of power in 2006.

The lightning strike lasts for $30$ microseconds. Does this mean that you get $100$ TW of energy in just $30$ microseconds?

• According to Doc Brown (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_to_the_Future), the energy contained is at least 1.21 gigawatts ;)
– akid
Jan 5, 2012 at 8:10
• @akid: Jiggawatts is a measure of power, not energy. Jan 5, 2012 at 21:27
• Right! The linked wikipedia article states 1.2 GW energy though, and I'm not sure if it's actually wrong there or just citing a non-physical statement from the movie.
– akid
Jan 6, 2012 at 9:05
• related: Can energy be extracted from clouds?. Jun 1, 2012 at 16:16
• People are joking and this is not an answer to the question. Jun 1, 2012 at 18:18

You are confused about units. Watt is a unit of power (energy/time), Watt-hour is a unit of energy. 16TW is an estimate of the continuous average power usage of the world - which is about 140,000 TWh each year. If the lightning has a peak power of 1TW for 30 microseconds, this corresponds to an energy content of about 8000 Watt-hours.

• In order to power the world, you would need to collect the energy of around 500,000 lightning strikes each second.
– user2963
Jan 3, 2012 at 20:40
• First of all, the current means nothing without a voltage specified.
– user2963
Jan 3, 2012 at 20:51
• Wikipedia says that the peak power is 1TW, for a period of 30 microseconds. Punch this into google: "1 terawatt * 30 microseconds in kilowatt hour". You get about 8KWh. Your bulb will consume about 150 KWh over 2 months of operation.
– user2963
Jan 3, 2012 at 20:53
• @50ndr33, your last comment gives the strong impression that you don't understand the units. The values you're quoting are not consistent with each other. Perhaps you could read up on the definitions of power, current, and energy on Wikipedia or elsewhere, and feel free to ask questions on this site if there are parts that confuse you. Jan 3, 2012 at 20:56
• Ah, thanks for stating this. I've made a lot of notes here and mixed up some values.. You are perfectly correct: It's 1TW for 30 microseconds, not 1*100TW... Jan 3, 2012 at 21:17