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The Eric Factor: Why the grass is always greener after lightning

Even though 78% of the atmosphere is composed of nitrogen, it takes lightning to break it up.

Did you know lightning is a big factor in turning the grass green this time of year?

In fact, it may be even more important than sunlight or warm temperatures.

Last night, a few locations saw thunderstorms and those lightning strikes produced a lot of fertilizer for plants to use. In the late-Spring and early-Summer months, trees and other plants get an added boost after thunderstorm activity. Since grasses are the only plants ready to go this early in March, you'll notice a "greening" effect in the days to come.

The composition of our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, but plants can't necessarily use that nitrogen to grow.

The high energy from lightning bolts breaks nitrogen molecules apart in the air. The broken molecules are then fused with oxygen in the air. As rain brings these molecules to the ground in a storm, they are able to be absorbed into the soil. These nitrates are Mother Nature's fertilizer which causes the plants to become rejuvenated.

If you want to impress your friends, the technical name for this process is "Nitrogen Fixation."

-Meteorologist Eric Sorensen