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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

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