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No. 72: Nov-Dec 1990

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Upwardly directed lightning from cloud tops

"An image of an unusual luminous electrical discharge over a thunderstorm 250 kilometers from the observing site has been obtained with a low-light-level television camera. The discharge began at the cloud tops at 14 kilometers and extended into the clear air 20 kilometers higher. The image, which had a duration of less than 30 milliseconds, resembled two jets or fountains and was probably caused by two localized electric charge concentrations at the cloud tops."
(Franz, R.C., et al; "Television Image of a Large Upward Electrical Discharge above a Thunderstorm System," Science, 249:48, 1990.)

Comment. Note that the above discharges were diffuse and quite unlike most cloud-to-ground lightning discharges. They were, in fact, much like the mountain-top glows seen along the Andes. Also, one should ask where those "localized electric charge concen trations" came from and why they did not disperse.

Reference, Upwardly directed "rocket lightning" is cataloged in GLL1 in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. Fuller description here.

From Science Frontiers #72, NOV-DEC 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss