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NOVA ScienceNOW

Lightning Varieties

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 10.01.05
  • NOVA scienceNOW

The array of lightning types is almost as dizzying as a good lightning storm. Beyond the familiar cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strokes, our world knows volcanic lightning and nuclear lightning, blue jets and red sprites, and other types even more fanciful, as this slide show reveals.

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Your average jagged bolt is just one kind. There are also balls and elves, blue jets and red sprites, and more.

Credits

Images

(cloud-to-ground lightning)
Courtesy NOAA
(cloud discharge, ball lightning)
Courtesy Wikipedia.org
(blue jet)
Courtesy Patricia Huett
(red sprite)
Courtesy D. D. Sentman, University of Alaska
(elves diagram)
Courtesy Walt Lyons
(volcanic lightning)
Courtesy Sakurajima Volcano Observatory
(atomic lightning)
Courtesy U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
(triggered lightning)
Courtesy University of Florida Lightning Research Group

Related Links

  • Lightning

    Experts still aren't sure what triggers lightning, but they suspect cosmic rays from outer space.

  • How Lightning Works

    It's like a giant spark in the sky, though with a few puzzling differences.

  • Lightning: Expert Q&A

    Lightning expert Joe Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology answers questions about nature's brightest flashes.

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