[TCML] 40 mile long lightning bolt
brianv at merr.com
Thu Aug 27 05:51:47 MDT 2009
Here is some interesting information on the lightning you are talking about:
Just as a thunderstorm can bring charge to earth through lightning, it also
can send charge into the upper atmosphere above the storm. This happens
through several recently discovered forms of storm electricity called
sprites, elves, and blue jets. Much fainter than lightning, these phenomena
are usually too dim to be seen by the naked eye, although some sprites have
been observed from as far away as 400 miles (640 km). Sprites were
discovered in 1989; they and their cousins have been studied in the 1990s
through ground-based television cameras specially adjusted to pick up the
subtle light they give off. Aircraft, satellites, and the space shuttle also
have detected these features.
A sprite is a large-scale but low-intensity pulse that can extend upward
from the top of a thunderstorm to heights approaching 60 miles (100
kilometers). Sometimes a sprite is preceded by a short-lived, pancake-shaped
area of charge called an elf that forms several dozen miles above the top of
a thunderstorm. Every sprite or sprite cluster is connected to an intracloud
or cloud-to-ground lightning flash; however, only about one in every 100 to
200 flashes produces a sprite. Just as lightning helps to reduce the
electric field between a storm and the earth, sprites are believed to dispel
charge differences between a thunderstorm and the ionosphere, an
electrically charged region of the upper atmosphere.
Blue jets are narrow cones of energy shooting upward from thunderstorm tops
at roughly 60 mi (100 km) per second to heights of 25-30 mi (40-50 km).
Discovered by aircraft, blue jets are even more rare than sprites. They
appear to be disconnected to the magnetic field in the storms beneath them,
and the role they play in atmospheric electricity is unknown.
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