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No. 113: Sep-Oct 1997

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Green Thunderstorms

Anecdotes abound that exceptionally severe thunderstorms may appear to emit an eerie, sickeningly yellow-green light. Skeptics scoff at this notion. The excited observers were deluded, or they made it all up. This is, of course, the same knee-jerk response greeting UFO reports and accounts of many other anomalies. Thunderstorms, however, do have an objective existence. And it turns out that a few storm-watching meteorologists have also seen greenish thunderstorms. Such professional testimony is usually dismissed as due to the reflection of greenish ground vegetation by the storm clouds or, perhaps, the effects of sheets of hail preceding the storms.

In 1995, F.W. Gallagher et al decided to settle the matter. They chased likely looking thunderstorms armed with a spectrophotometer. Many storms later, they proved, first of all, that some thunderstorms are definitely green. In fact, some gradually change from blue to green in the space of half an hour. Their ground observations, plus more spectrophotometer data taken from aircraft, refute the theory that the green color is from reflected vegetation. Hail may contribute to the green color but is not required. In sum, green thunderstorms really do exist, but no one yet knows where all the green comes from.

(Gallagher, Frank W., III, et al; "Green Thunderstorms Observed," Amer ican Meteorological Society, Bulletin, 77:2889, 1996.)

From Science Frontiers #113, SEP-OCT 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