Taxonomy term

lightning

Bolts of insight on earthly gamma ray showers

A handful of times between 2014 and 2016, an array of ground detectors placed in Utah’s western desert sensed something in thunderstorms that occasionally raged overhead: showers of gamma rays — the highest energy waves in the electromagnetic spectrum — occurring alongside lightning bolts.

15 Aug 2018

Impact signature in rock produced by lightning strikes

When a meteorite smashes into Earth’s rocky surface, the immense temperatures and pressures created can melt rock into glass and leave signatures of the impact behind. Impacts produce tell-tale planar features in quartz grains called shock lamellae — picture a scrambled television signal, with repeating horizontal lines chopping and distorting the image into layers — that scientists have thought were produced only by meteorites.

05 Jan 2018

Venezuela, Central Africa are Earth's lightning hot spots

People who live around Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo call it a “lighthouse.” The lake’s “never-ending storm” has been written about for centuries, and the incessant lightning there has even helped guide Caribbean sailors. Data from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has now confirmed that Lake Maracaibo is Earth’s top lightning hot spot.

24 Apr 2017

Map shows where lightning zaps most

Lightning strikes far more often over land than sea and is more concentrated closer to the equator — both testaments to the greater atmospheric instability over those parts of the planet.

29 Aug 2015

Volcanic lightning turns ash into glass

Within the ash plumes of explosive volcanic eruptions, collisions among countless pyroclastic particles sometimes lead to the buildup of static charges that discharge dramatically as volcanic lightning. In a new study, researchers have found that this lightning can, in turn, melt and fuse ash particles into distinctive glassy grains called spherules.

07 Aug 2015

Volcanic lightning generated in a bottle

Scientists know very little about how lightning is generated by volcanic eruptions, in large part because of the danger and difficulty in monitoring the phenomenon in the field. But a new apparatus for generating volcanic lightning in the lab may shed light on the subject.

06 Apr 2014

Blogging on EARTH: First dispatches from EGU

EARTH’s Carolyn Gramling is taking in the European Geophysical Union meeting this week in Vienna, Austria. Here are some of the sessions that have caught her interest so far.

05 Apr 2011

Storms brewing over volcanoes

Two hundred years ago, a sea captain was sailing in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, when he observed “an immense body of smoke rising from the sea.” As he watched, the smoke, from a volcanic vent offshore of the island of St. Michael’s, began to rotate on the water “like a horizontal wheel,” the captain wrote in his 1811 account of the event. The rotating smoke and ash grew into a dark column and ascended high into the sky, spawning waterspouts and flashes of lightning.

09 Apr 2009