Lightening to Sand

If you saw the movie, Sweet Home Alabama, you might wonder if lightning really does turn sand into glass. The answer is: sometimes. The result is known as fulgurite.


Fun Facts

  • Lightning turns sand into glass under certain circumstances. The lightning must be more than 1800 degrees Celsius. The sand must contain silica or quartz.
  • When the lightning hits the sand, it tunnels into the ground, making a shape like the roots of a tree.
  • The glass that results looks like hollow, branched tubes that are covered with sand.
  • These glass tubes, fulgurite, can remain protected under the ground for hundreds of years.
  • Over time, wind, rain, and erosion can unearth these glass sculptures. They’re uncommon, but beautiful.
  • The sculptures can be mistaken for a piece of driftwood.



  1. Fulgurite: a sculpture made by lightning hitting sand
  2. Erosion: the process of removing dirt from an area through natural means, e.g., wind and rain
  3. Hollow: open on the inside; not solid


Questions and Answers

Question: What else can lightning do?

Answer: It’s estimated that lightning strikes the earth 8.6 million times a day! And with temperatures up to four times the heat of the Sun, lightning can cause tremendous damage. Lightning can evaporate the water in trees, causing them to explode.

Lightning can also cause trees to catch on fire. About 2,000 people die from lightning strikes every year. Those that survive experience long-term consequences, such as memory loss, weakness, and burns.


Learn More

See photos of fulgurites.