## How Far Away Is A Lightning?

Next time you’re stuck in a thunderstorm, try this easy way to calculate how far away you are from lightning strikes.

Just count the number of seconds that pass between a flash of lightning and the crack of thunder that follows it, then divide that number by five.

The resulting number will tell you how many miles away you are from where lightning just struck.

Five seconds, for example, indicates the lightning struck 1 mile away, and a 10-second gap means the lightning was 2 miles away.

This technique is called the “flash-to-bang” method, and it can keep you safe during rainy summer weather.

The National Weather Service recommends taking cover if the time between the lightning flash and the rumble of thunder is 30 seconds or less, which indicates the lightning is about 6 miles away or closer.

This method is based on the fact that light travels much faster than sound through the atmosphere: Light travels at 186,291 miles per second (299,800 km/s), whereas the speed of sound is only about 1,088 feet per second (332 meters per second), depending on air temperature.

For metric-system conversions, follow this method: Sound travels at about 340 m/s, so multiply the number of seconds you counted by 340, and you’ll know how many meters away lightning struck.

A three-second count, then, would place the lightning strike about 1,020 m away, or roughly 1 km.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Watch Lightning Seen From Space

Astronauts were treated to a striking sight when they spotted a lightning storm from space.

These stunning images caught an electrical storm in full flow almost 250 miles above the earth while the space men were orbiting at 17,895 mph in the International Space Station.

The pictures show the swirling clouds and multiple lightning strikes as the eye of the storm moves across land, thought to be Iran.

The flashes were spotted by the European Space Agency’s Nightpod camera, which astronauts set up to take crystal-clear images which have only now been released after being taken in 2012.

Despite the distance from the planet and the speed involved, the high-tech camera is specially adapted to keep the pictures in focus to avoid blurring.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Shocking Video Shows 12-Year-Old Boy Nearly Struck By Lightning

A mother in Argentina captured the moment her 12-year-old son was almost hit by lightning while playing in the rain.

The unnamed boy is seen in the video playing with his umbrella under a downspout before walking out into a grassy area near his home.

Just then, a powerful bolt of lightning strikes just feet from where the boy is standing.

The boy’s mother says her son survived the incident, according to multiple reports.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Video Captures Moment When Kid Is Nearly Hit By Lightning

An Argentine mom filming her 12-year-old son fooling around with an umbrella ended up capturing his brush with death as a lightning bolt struck just feet away.

The video shows the unidentified pre-teen standing under a roof drainpipe, with water pouring out onto the umbrella.

Seconds later, he walks out into a garden in the city of Posadas, in the northeastern Argentine province of Misiones.

Then out of nowhere, a powerful bolt of lightning strikes down just steps in front of the boy — causing a nearby fence to erupt in flames.

The boy’s frightened mom, Carolina Kotur, shrieked and quickly dropped her phone.

It was morning, I was with my daughter in the room calming her, because she is scared of lightning,” Kotur told local media.

Then the lady who works in my house told me that my son was walking in the rain and I started filming because I was making a joke, and right next to him the lightning struck. Thank God nothing happened to him.”

Others in the region were not so fortunate during the fierce storm, Central European News reported.

Brothers Sinforiano Venialgo Vazquez, 43, and Simon Venialgo Vazquez, 41, were killed when lightning struck near their home in the Paraguayan town of San Pedro del Parana — 68 miles from where the young boy was nearly hit by the bolt.

The cause of death in both cases was electrocution, though no further details were available, according to the report.

Lightning strikes reportedly killed animals in the Santa Rosa area, on the Argentine side of the Parana River, the outlet reported.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Scientists Study Winter Storms Involving Thundersnow To Pinpoint Where Heavy Snowfalls May Occur

It’s been more than 30 years—during the Blizzard of 1978 to be exact—since Neil Stuart saw “thundersnow,” a weather phenomenon featuring the unusual combination of thunder, lightning and snow.

The National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist was 10 years old, living near Boston. The storm—which he says “is famous in meteorological circles” and influenced his career path—dumped 27 inches of snow on the ground over two days.

The heaviest snow, however, came during a six-hour thundersnow storm that delivered one foot of snow over a six hour period.

Seeing thundersnow come down is “like watching a time-lapse movie of the snow building up, because it falls so quickly,” Stuart says.

Thunder and lightning during a snowstorm is different from a run-of-the-mill snowstorm; it is extremely rare—fewer than 1 percent of observed snowstorms unleash thundersnow, according to a 1971 NSW study.

But recorded observations of the phenomenon date back to 250 B.C., say ancient Chinese records translated in 1980 by atmospheric scientist Pao-Kuan Wang, now of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Today, researchers are interested in thundersnow for its predictive value.

According to Patrick Market, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Missouri, a 30-year study of snowfall found that when lightning is observed during a snowstorm, there is an 86 percent chance that at least 15 centimeters of snow will fall within 113 kilometers of the flash.

Researchers are trying to determine the combo of atmospheric conditions required to create thundersnow to help them better predict heavy snowfall.

Which they define as at least 20 centimeters falling at a rate of 7.5 to 10 centimeters per hour—and issue warnings about hazardous weather before it hits, giving people time to prepare, take cover and get off the road.

By the time the lightning flashes during a thundersnow-storm, it is often already too late to prepare local residents for the whiteout on the way.

If we’re talking about the observation of thundersnow,” Market says, “the predictive value is on the order of minutes to hours.

In the U.S. thundersnow is most likely to form in mountainous regions like the Rockies as well as in the vicinity of comparatively warm and large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.

Snow requires a cold environment, adequate moisture to form clouds, and rising air; thundersnow makes an appearance when a fourth ingredient is added: thermal instability, which is created by the addition of relatively warm air.

Market last month joined a team of storm-chasing University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign researchers using various radars to examine what takes place inside storm clouds to cause snowfall.

The team is surveying atmospheric conditions in several locations in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

A field mill, a device that measures electric fields near the ground, will be used to determine whether there is an accumulation of charged ice particles in the clouds above.

The team next year plans to fly into snowstorms in NWS planes and drop parcels containing thermometers, barometers and other devices that, like weather balloons, will measure temperature on their way down.

If the team encounters thundersnow during its study, it may be able to confirm the conditions needed to produce it, making such icy tempests easier to forecast.

With some lead time, [be it] hours or even a day or two,” Stuart says, “we can see a big storm and predict which areas will see extreme snowfall.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Cargo Ships Are Creating Sea Lightning

Thunderstorm aficionados, if you really want to see some action then get yourself aboard a cargo ship.

A new study has shown that lightning strikes occur nearly twice as often above busy shipping lanes than in the regions to either side.

It turns out the belching fumes from ship exhausts are helping to trigger extra lightning.

While analysing data from the Worldwide Lightning Location Network, a web of sensors around the world that track lightning strikes, researchers noticed nearly straight lines of lightning strikes across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

By comparing the lightning data with maps of ships’ exhaust emissions they were able to show that there were nearly twice as many lightning strikes along the main shipping routes between Sri Lanka and Sumatra, and between Singapore and Vietnam.

This enhanced level of lightning was visible at least as far back as 2005.

Writing in Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers explain how the ship exhaust fumes add more particles to the air, which encourages more cloud droplets to form.

Because the cloud droplets are smaller and lighter than they would otherwise be they travel higher into the atmosphere and are more likely to reach the freezing line, so creating more ice particles.

Collision between ice particles causes storm clouds to electrify, and lightning is the atmosphere’s way of neutralising the built-up electric charge.

It’s one of the clearest examples of how humans are actually changing the intensity of storm processes on Earth through the emission of particulates from combustion,” said Joel Thornton, from the University of Washington, in Seattle, the lead author of the study.

Pass it on: New Scientist

## How Pollution Makes Bigger Thunderstorms

Pollution causes taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds, say experts.

Pollution makes thunderstorms worse by creating bigger, longer lasting clouds and cooling temperatures with their shadows, according to experts.

Computer simulations of cloud data from the western Pacific, south eastern China and Oklahoma showed pollution increased their size, thickness and duration.

Taking a closer look at the properties of water droplets and ice crystals within, the researchers found pollution resulted in smaller droplets and ice crystals regardless of location.

In clean skies ice particles were heavier and fell faster causing the clouds to dissipate. But in polluted skies they were smaller and too light to drop leading to the larger clouds.

Dr. Jiwen Fan, of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, said: “This study reconciles what we see in real life to what computer models show us.”

Observations consistently show taller and bigger anvil-shaped clouds in storm systems with pollution.

A polluted sky has many more aerosols – natural and manmade particles – making more but smaller cloud droplets.

Researchers have long believed smaller droplets start a chain reaction that leads to bigger, longer-lasting clouds.

Instead of raining down, the lighter droplets carry their water higher, where they freeze. The freezing squeezes out the heat the droplets carry with them and causes the thunder cloud to become draftier.

Dr. Fan said: “Modelling the details of cloud microphysical properties is very computationally intensive so models don’t usually include them.

Polluted clouds have an effect on temperatures, with afternoon thunderstorms lasting long into the night rather than dissipating and trapping heat like a blanket.

In the day the clouds’ shadows diminish sunlight penetration and so keep the Earth cooler.

Accounting for pollution effects on storm clouds could affect the ultimate amount of warming predicted for the earth in the next few decades.

Accurately representing clouds in climate models is key to improving the accuracy of predicted changes to the climate.

Pass it on: Popular Science

## Want To Know What Happens When The Lightning Doesn’t Hit The Ground? Watch This!

Lightning is far more than just a sky-borne phenomenon: Remarkably, it can also form at ground level and shoot upwards.

This upside-down lightning is the subject of a paper published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, in which the strange behavior of these inverted bolts is revealed.

Despite the fact that there are roughly 40-50 lightning strikes somewhere around the world every second, they are surprisingly poorly understood.

Watch the video to know how this upside down lightning works!