Why in a thunder and lightning storm could the sky be pink and orange?

Depending on local atmospheric conditions, lightning traveling through open air emits white light, but can appear in different colors.

In snowstorms, pink and green are often described as colors of lightning. Particles in the atmosphere $uck as haze, dust, moisture and raindrops affect the color by absorbing or diffracting a portion of the white light of lightning.

The same way the setting sun does, distant lightning can appear red or orange. Light emitted by lightning has similar visible spectrum as sunlight, so the atmosphere should shift the colors of both the same way (given there is enough distance between the lightning and the observer).

Lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the United States. Most people do not realize that they can be struck by lightning even when the center of a thunderstorm is 10 miles (16 kilometers) away and there are blue skies overhead. Read Flash Facts About Lightning, organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Lightning kills as many as 2,000 people worldwide every year. Read tips on what you can do to avoid electrical storms or decrease your chances of getting struck at National Geographic.

Updated on Wednesday, June 11 2014 at 04:43AM EDT