New Mexico remains one of the highest states in the nation as far as lightning activity. Expect more storms this summer some with amazing displays of lightning. Here are some cool facts on LIGHTNING in New Mexico.
BOLT TEMPS: 36,000 degrees or 3 times hotter than the sun.
SPEED: 200,000 mph. Faster than the speed og light.
BOLT SIZE: about the size of a broomstick.
Some lightning strikes exhibit particular characteristics; scientists and the general public have given names to these various types of lightning. The lightning that is most-commonly observed is streak lightning. This is nothing more than the return stroke, the visible part of the lightning stroke. The majority of strokes occur inside a cloud so we do not see most of the individual return strokes during a thunderstorm.
This is the best known and second most common type of lightning. Of all the different types of lightning, it poses the greatest threat to life and property since it strikes the ground. Cloud-to-ground lightning is a lightning discharge between a cumulonimbus cloud and the ground. It is initiated by a leader stroke moving down from the cloud.
Bead lightning is a type of cloud-to-ground lightning which appears to break up into a string of short, bright sections, which last longer than the usual discharge channel. It is relatively rare. Several theories have been proposed to explain it; one is that the observer sees portions of the lightning channel end on, and that these portions appear especially bright. Another is that, in bead lightning, the width of the lightning channel varies; as the lightning channel cools and fades, the wider sections cool more slowly and remain visible longer, appearing as a string of beads.
Ribbon lightning occurs in thunderstorms with high cross winds and multiple return strokes. The wind will blow each successive return stroke slightly to one side of the previous return stroke, causing a ribbon effect.
Staccato lightning is a cloud to ground lightning strike which is a short-duration stroke that appears as a single very bright flash and often has considerable branching.
Fork lightning is a name, not in formal usage, for cloud-to-ground lightning that exhibits branching.
Ground-to-cloud lightning is a lightning discharge between the ground and a cumulonimbus cloud initiated by an upward-moving leader stroke. It is much rarer than cloud-to-ground lightning.
Lightning discharges may occur between areas of cloud without contacting the ground. When it occurs between two separate clouds it is known as inter-cloud lightning and when it occurs between areas of differing electric potential within a single cloud, it is known as intra-cloud lightning. Intra-cloud lightning is the most frequently occurring type.
These are most common between the upper anvil portion and lower reaches of a given thunderstorm. This lightning can sometimes be observed at great distances at night as so-called “heat lightning“. In such instances, the observer may see only a flash of light without hearing any thunder. The “heat” portion of the term is a folk association between locally experienced warmth and the distant lightning flashes.
Another terminology used for cloud-cloud or cloud-cloud-ground lightning is “Anvil Crawler”, due to the habit of the charge typically originating from beneath or within the anvil and scrambling through the upper cloud layers of a thunderstorm, normally generating multiple branch strokes which are dramatic to witness. These are usually seen as a thunderstorm passes over the observer or begins to decay. The most vivid crawler behavior occurs in well developed thunderstorms that feature extensive rear anvil shearing.
Sheet lightning is an informally applied name to cloud-to-cloud lightning that exhibits a diffuse brightening of the surface of a cloud caused by the actual discharge path being hidden.
Heat lightning occurs too far away for the thunder to be heard. This occurs because the lightning occurs very far away and the sound waves dissipate before they reach the observer.
Dry lightning is a term in the United States for lightning that occurs with no precipitation at the surface. This type of lightning is the most common natural cause of wildfires. Pyrocumulus clouds produce lightning for the same reason that it is produced by cumulonimbus clouds. When the higher levels of the atmosphere are cooler, and the surface is warmed to extreme temperatures due to a wildfire, volcano, etc, convection will occur, and the convection produces lightning. Therefore, fire can beget dry lightning through the development of more dry thunderstorms which cause more fires.
It is a form of cloud discharge, generally horizontal and at cloud base, with a luminous channel appearing to advance through the air with visually resolvable speed, often intermittently. Positive lightning
Anvil-to-ground (Bolt from the blue) lightning strike
Positive lightning, also known colloquially as “bolts from the blue“, makes up less than 5% of all lightning. It occurs when the leader forms at the positively charged cloud tops, with the consequence that a negatively charged streamer issues from the ground. The overall effect is a discharge of positive charges to the ground. Research carried out after the discovery of positive lightning in the 1970s showed that positive lightning bolts are typically six to ten times more powerful than negative bolts, last around ten times longer, and can strike tens of kilometres/miles from the clouds.The voltage difference for positive lightning must be considerably higher, due to the tens of thousands of additional metres/feet the strike must travel. During a positive lightning strike, huge quantities of ELF and VLF radio waves are generated.
As a result of their greater power, positive lightning strikes are considerably more dangerous. At the present time, aircraft are not designed to withstand such strikes, since their existence was unknown at the time standards were set, and the dangers unappreciated until the destruction of a glider in 1999.
One type of positive lightning is anvil-to-ground, since it emanates from the anvil top of a cumulonimbus cloud where the ice crystals are positively charged. The leader stroke of lightning issues forth in a nearly horizontal direction until it veers toward the ground. These usually occur kilometers/miles from (and often ahead of) the main storm and will sometimes strike without warning on a sunny day. An anvil-to-ground lightning bolt is a sign of an approaching storm, and if one occurs in a largely clear sky, it is known colloquially as a “Bolt from the blue.
Positive lightning is also now believed to have been responsible for the 1963 in-flight explosion and subsequent crash of Pan Am Flight 214, a Boeing 707. Due to the dangers of lightning, aircraft operating in U.S. airspace have been required to have lightning discharge wicks to reduce the damage by a lightning strike, but these measures may be insufficient for positive lightning.
Positive lightning has also been shown to trigger the occurrence of upper atmosphere lightning. It tends to occur more frequently in winter storms, as with thundersnow, and at the end of a thunderstorm.
An average bolt of positive lightning carries a current of up to 300 kA (kiloamperes) (about ten times as much current as a bolt of negative lightning), transfers a charge of up to 300 coulombs, has a potential difference up to 1 gigavolt (one billion volts), and lasts for hundreds of milliseconds, with a discharge energy of up to 300 GJ (gigajoules) (a billion joules).
A photo purportedly depicting natural ball lightning, taken in 1987 by a student in Nagano, Japan.
Ball lightning may be an atmospheric electrical phenomenon, the physical nature of which is still controversial. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is sometimes associated with thunderstorms, but unlike lightning flashes, which last only a fraction of a second, ball lightning reportedly lasts many seconds. Ball lightning has been described by eyewitnesses but rarely recorded by meteorologists. Scientific data on natural ball lightning is scarce owing to its infrequency and unpredictability. The presumption of its existence is based on reported public sightings, and has therefore produced somewhat inconsistent findings.
Laboratory experiments have produced effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but it is presently unknown whether these are actually related to any naturally occurring phenomenon. Ball lightning apparently is created when lightning strikes silicon in soil, and has been created in a lab in this manner.Given inconsistencies and the lack of reliable data, the true nature of ball lightning is still unknown.Until recently, ball lightning was often regarded as a fantasy or a hoax. Reports of the phenomenon were dismissed for lack of physical evidence, and were often regarded the same way as UFO sightings.
One theory that may account for this wider spectrum of observational evidence is the idea of combustion inside the low-velocity region of axisymmetric (spherical) vortex breakdown of a natural vortex (e.g., the ‘Hill’s spherical vortex’). Natural ball lightning appears infrequently and unpredictably, and is therefore rarely (if ever truly) photographed. However, several purported photos and videos exist. Perhaps the most famous story of ball lightning unfolded when 18th-century physicist Georg Wilhelm Richmann installed a lightning rod in his home and was struck in the head – and killed – by a “pale blue ball of fire.”
Representation of upper-atmospheric lightning and electrical-discharge phenomena
Reports by scientists of strange lightning phenomena about storms date back to at least 1886. However, it is only in recent years that fuller investigations have been made. This has sometimes been called megalightning.