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Unusual Cloud to Cloud Lightning

  1. Jan 13, 2012 #1
    Well this is my first thread so I figured I'd start off on the right foot in the crazy forum.

    In all seriousness I would like to attempt to explain some experiences I've had that I have been unable to find an explanation for. I will provide as much detail as I can recall to try an aid anyone who may have an explanation.

    #1 This event took place took place in the early 2000s, can't remember exact year in Hammond, In. I was standing in a parking lot with a friend having a conversation. It was a nice summer day probably August. The Gary or Chicago airshow was being held that weekend, so there was all sorts of interesting air traffic over the area at that time. Now I recall this happening in the early evening not dusk maybe 5pm or so. We standing there having a conversation being interrupted by thunderous roars from the heavens and as we were looking for the jets responsible for the noise we saw it. It was a cumulonimbus thunderhead, just a grey cloud nothing too stormy illuminate red. It all of a sudden started glowing and slowly fading maybe over 10s. We were awestruck and after about 30s I eventually said "Well, I've never seen anything like that before" ,and my friend agreed.

    My best guess would be that one of the fighter jets could have illuminated the cloud with an afterburner? This to me doesn't really add up and also I find it unlikely that the pilot would do such a thing over a highly populated area, I really have no idea.

    #2 Winter 2009, Cold, dune sledding on the Lake Michigan lakesore in gary, in. 8pm.
    This event was also witnessed by a friend and I feel the least abnormal. We were sledding down dunes and launching ourselves into snow drifts, great fun! We took a walk to inspect the lake shore as there was a north wind and all the ice from out in the open water had smashed itself up onto the beach. After trying some star gazing we notice a dense fog over the lake preventing us from seeing the night sky in the only direction lacking light pollution. Then once again a cloud lit up red. This occurred almost directly to our east. It appeared that only the bottom of the cloud illuminated. I attributed this to the heavy industry in the area, specifically the steel mills. My theory is that perhaps they were pouring steel into rail cars from a blast furnace or some other situation where the molten steel might be exposed to the sky above. who knows.

    #3 Sorry this is longer than I thought. Summer 2011Lake County Indiana mild thunderstorm late evening (dark). This was just funky to begin with lots of clouds moving in intersecting paths and failed funnel formations dropping from clouds, including some impressive horizontal rotating columns. So I was driving home at night and the light show was spectacular. Almost constant cloud to cloud or "heat" lightning (no thunder just flash after flash). At about 2am I woke up to let the dog out and waited to see if the show was still on. This was witnessed by myself only, excluding the dog, she has never fessed up. I was looking east as I tend to do more than I'd like to admit and this is when it happened. Cloud illumination, on a 100% cloudy night. There was no thunder but the illumination lasted no less than 15s. It began as a brilliant blue white and changed to an aurora green and then red and faded out. This continued for a good 10 minutes. In addition there was other white blue discharges in the clouds as well most lasting must longer than I am used to seeing, perhaps just multiple instances of lightning. Well that's all she wrote. If you made it this far you win the patience award, and a reminder you probably have something better to do with your time.

    Thanks for any ideas.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2012 #2


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    Sounds like lightning to me. I've seen some weird lightning in my day as well, just not quite this weird. Not all lightning will be able to be heard via thunder.
  4. Jan 15, 2012 #3
    Greetings leprechaun0:

    I have also observed such lightning behavior and although the circumstances are not identical the actual description of the duration and color are similar. Being that I have over the years photographed lighting I may actually have photographs of such an event, I will have search for them if I still have them.
  5. Jan 16, 2012 #4


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    There's all kinds of crazy lightning events. Your first two sound like they could have been "sprites": a plasma event that occurs above lightning clouds.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprite_(lightning [Broken])
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Jan 16, 2012 #5


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    Happens all the time at the airshow in our city of 4 million. The F-101 Voodoos would do it.
  7. Jan 23, 2012 #6
    In Orlando, I saw lightning strike a tree right over my car.

    I moved the car and lightning struck the same tree again.

    The second time, the tree burned as if doused in gasoline.
  8. Jan 24, 2012 #7


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    Sometimes when lightning strikes a tree, it will be found to be scarred by series of spiral grooves from top to bottom through the bark and down to the outer wood. Peak current is generally 10,000 to 20,000 amps, but can range up to into hundreds of thousands.

    Some lightning contains continuing current, and is called hot lightning. Both hot and cold lightning have temperatures of 15,000 to 60,000 F.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2012
  9. Jan 24, 2012 #8


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    Martin Uman has a comprehensive book (with several journal references) about the many kinds of lightning discharge. Much of lightning is still considered a mystery.
  10. Jan 24, 2012 #9


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    Martin Uman:smile:

    He's just about my favorite scientist!

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