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No. 14: Winter 1981 Supplement

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Do lightning channels accelerate matter?

E.W. Crew suggests in this paper that two rare classes of meteorological observations may be created by the intense electrostatic accelerating forces present in lightning channels. The first class of observations consists of blasts of hot air noted some distance from violent lightning strikes but seeming associated with the discharges. Second, some superhailstones (hydrometeors) also seem to be correlated with violent lightning. The physical mechanism for the concentration and propulsion of matter is the electrostatic force naturally present in lightning discharge channels; it functions much the same as the particle accelerators in the physics lab.

The observations of hot air blasts and superhailstones collected by Crew to support his theory are indeed suggestive, but more are needed. Crew also feels that some UFO sightings may be produced by the same mechanism.

(Crew, E.W.; "Meteorological Flying Objects," Royal Astronomical Society Quarterly Journal, 21:216, 1980.)

Comment. Note also that the fall of thunderstones is usually coincident with lightning discharges; and that some high quality observations of thunderstone falls are on record -- despite the tendency of Science to relegate them to myth. One must also consider the possibility that the passage of a meteor or superhailstone through the atmosphere might trigger lightning, thus putting the cart before the horse.

From Science Frontiers #14, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987