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No. 105: May-Jun 1996

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Possible Nocturnal Tornado Lit Up By Electrical Discharges

January 10, 1994. Farnham, Surrey, UK.

At 0448 GMT, following a sudden cessation of rainfall, M.D. Smith became aware of an orange glow outside his window. Accompanying it was a roar like that of a military jet. The phenomenon occurred a total of four times; the second of which is the most interesting.

"A second illumination was observed twenty seconds later, but this time it reappeared away from the tree so a clear view was possible. The illumination was in the form of a narrow column and of the classic gentle 'S' tornado shape in the 'roping out' stage; it was silvery in colour towards the top and golden-orange lower down. Additionally, Mr. Smith saw the illumination move from the sky towards the ground, but at a speed slower than lightning. The sound of rushing wind was heard again, while this illumination lasted five to six seconds. Mr. Smith also noted a very low cloud base with a second layer of cloud only slightly higher."

(Reynolds, David J.; "Nocturnal Tornado Illuminated by an Electrical Discharge at Farnham, Surrey, 10 January 1994," Journal of Meteorology, UK, 20:381, 1995.)

Comment. Although ordinary lightning accompanies many tornados, glowing columns suggestive of other types of electrical discharge are not part of prevailing tornado theory. Nevertheless, observations of glowing discharges within the funnel - making it look like a neon light - have been observed and even photographed. See above sketch taken from GLD10 in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. For a description of this book, visit: here.

Funnel of a nocturnal tornado glowing like a neon light Very rarely the funnel of a nocturnal tornado will glow like a neon light.

From Science Frontiers #105, MAY-JUN 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss