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No. 19: Jan-Feb 1982

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Why so little lightning at sea?

Using satellite data, Richard Orville and Bernard Vonnegut have compiled maps showing the global distribution of lightning at night. (At present, satellites can detect only nighttime flashes.) As might be expected, the flashes are strongly concentrated in the earth's tropical regions. The feature of the maps that is most difficult to understand is the very obvious dearth of lightning over the world's oceans.

(Anonymous; "Patterns of Thunderbolts," New Scientist, 92:102, 1981.)

Comment. Reinforcing these modern quantitative observations are the centuries-old speculations on why thunder is heard so rarely by mariners.

From Science Frontiers #19, JAN-FEB 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss