Weather Blog

A side of lightning you rarely see

A side of lightning you rarely see
Photo courtesy: Steven Cummer, Duke University.

We're all familiar with the typical zig-zag of lightning that lights up the skies when thunderstorms roll through the area. They appear to flow from cloud to ground, although that's not entirely true -- it goes both ways.

But have you ever seen lightning sprout out the top of a cloud?

As you might imagine, that's hard to see from here since the clouds make a better door than a window, but Duke University electrical engineer Steven Cummer managed to capture some incredible shots of lighting shooting 40 miles up from the top of a cloud from a thunderstorm that rolled through North Carolina on May 9.

According to an article on the National Science Foundation Web site, "These rarely seen, highly charged meteorological events are known as gigantic jets, and they flash up to the lower levels of space, or ionosphere."

Sure, they call them "gigantic jets" -- I think "electrical fountains" might be more apropos.

Here are links to some slow motion video of the lightning strikes:

Video 1 / Video 2

Now, if he can just capture it spelling out "UW" again, that'd be perfect :)

Read the full article here at NSF.gov