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No. 112: Jul-Aug 1997

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Apparent Circular Lightning

May 1, 1997, near Patterson, New Jer sey. Between 3 and 4 PM, D. Quinlan was driving along Route 80. A dark line squall was approaching from the west. Quinlan observed many horizontal strokes of lightning passing from cloud to cloud. These discharges seemed to make little noise -- no loud crashes of thunder, although sounds were somewhat muffled by his vehicle. These strokes moved so slowly that their progress across the sky could be easily tracked visually. Most remarkable were three discharges that began to his right, progressed across the sky in nearly a horizontal plane, and then looped back to near their starting points, thereby completing what appeared to be a circle.

(Quinlan, David; private communication, May 2, 1997.)

Comment. In our Catalog Lightning, Auroras, section GLL25, we offer three cases of "meandering" lightning in which the discharges follow long, complex, looping paths. However, none of these were circular. Also, in SF#89. there is an instance of "looped" lightning that rises from cloud tops toward the ionosphere and then loops back to the cloud tops. The Catalog volume just cited is described at here.

From Science Frontiers #112, JUL-AUG 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss