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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

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