Fact or fiction? Hot and humid summer nights can generate “Heat Lightning” as a result of warmer temperatures and no thunderstorms are associated with them.
Fiction! Heat lightning is associated with thunderstorms visible up to approximately 100 miles away by an observer on the ground. Heat lightning often can’t be heard because we can only hear lighting within a 10 mile or so range. Heat lightning probably got its name because it occurs in association with Air Mass Thunderstorms that typically happen when surface temperatures are warm!
Thousands of reports of “Ball Lightning” observations exist from places all over the globe and by a variety of people however the phenomena remains a mystery!
“Laboratory experiments can produce effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but whether these are related to the natural phenomenon remains unclear.”
Observations of the natural phenomena have similar characteristics such as:
It appears in the shape of a sphere and ranges in size from a tennis to a beach ball
It is commonly reported as traveling above the ground for up to five seconds
Seen in conjunction with thunderstorms.
Sometimes referred to as a “Dirty Thunderstorm” this weather phenomenon produces lightning in volcanic ash clouds and provides spectacular imagery.
Volcanic lightning is just beginning to be better understood. Generally however scientists agree that when the particles within the ash cloud begin to systematically separate into positive and negative particles, at some point the charge in the separation becomes too big to resist and lightning results.
Also called “Petrified Lightning,” sand fulgurites are formed when lightning strikes sand at a temperature of 1800 degrees Celsius or higher and instantly melts the silica into a shape that mimics the path of the lightning bolt as it disperses into the ground!
Derived from the Latin word “fulgar” for lightning, fulgurites are long hollow tubes about an inch across with glassy interiors and a rough exterior surface covered with partially melted sand. One of the longest fulgurites to be found in modern times was 16 feet long and was found in Northern Florida.