Did you know archive

..that ship-emitted particles and increase lightning?

MODERN, broad-beamed merchant vessels are well able to withstand the rough and tumble of the waves, but sailors still prefer to avoid storms at sea if they can. Containers may come loose in heavy weather and there is always a chance of lightning knocking out communications. It is therefore ironic that some storms may be caused by ships themselves. That, at least, is the conclusion reached by Joel Thornton of the University of Washington, in Seattle, and his colleagues in a paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters. They demonstrate that lightning strikes the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea almost twice as often along shipping lanes as it does other areas of these waters. Dr Thornton and his team considered 1.5bn strikes recorded in this part of the world by the World Wide Lightning Location Network (an international collaboration led by Dr Thornton’s colleague, Robert Holzworth) between 2005 and 2016. As the map shows, those strikes that happened over the ocean were concentrated in places most plied by ships. In particular, the shipping lane that passes from the south of Sri Lanka to the northern entrance of the Straits of Malacca, and thence down the straits to Singapore, positively glows with lightning. (Its westward extension to the Suez canal was outside the study area.) So do the lanes from Singapore and the western part of Malaysia that head north-east across the South China Sea. Neither changes in vertical wind shear nor differences in horizontal air movements seem likely to be causing this concentration of thunderstorms, for other measurements suggest that these weather-modifying phenomena are the same inside shipping lanes as they are in neighbouring parts of the atmosphere immediately outside those lanes. Nor does it seem plausible that the ships themselves (admittedly made of metal, and also the tallest structures on what is otherwise a flat surface) are responsible for attracting all the extra strikes involved. Though the area of the lanes is small compared with the whole ocean, it is vast compared with the area actually occupied by vessels. Most of the extra bolts are hitting the sea rather than craft sailing across it. The most likely explanation is particulate pollution emitted by the ships using the shipping lanes. Marine diesel burned offshore is generally high in sulphur, and its combustion produces soluble oxides of that element which act as nuclei for the condensation of cloud-forming droplets. Typical marine clouds in unpolluted areas are composed of large droplets and do not rise to high altitude, but Dr Thornton and his team reckon that smaller droplets, of the sort that condense around oxides of sulphur, might more easily be carried upward by convection—forming, as they rose, into towering storm clouds that would act as nurseries of lightning bolts. As to what can be done about this extra lightning, change may already be in hand. At the moment, standard “bunker” fuel has an average sulphur content of 2.7%. From 2020 that should fall to 0.5% if refiners and shipowners obey rules being introduced by the International Maritime Organisation, the body responsible for trying to impose order on the world’s shipping. Ships are also being sailed more efficiently, often by slowing them down, which reduces the amount of fuel consumed per nautical mile. That is how Maersk Line—one of the world’s biggest container-ship operators—has cut its fleet’s fuel consumption by 42% since 2007. On top of this, ship propulsion is becoming more efficient, as heat-recycling systems and new types of engine are introduced. In a few decades, therefore, the storminess of shipping lanes may have returned to normal. In the meantime, for any who may doubt humanity’s ability to affect the weather, Dr Thornton’s work provides strong evidence that it can. This article appeared in the Science and technology section of the print edition under the headline "Brimstone and fire"
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On the 21st of August 2011, a thunderstorm forced the Pope to cut short his speech!

On the 21st of August 2011, a thunderstorm forced the pope to cut short his speech to an estimated 1 million young pilgrims gathered at a Madrid airfield to mark World Youth Day. As rain soaked the crowd and lightning lit up the night sky on Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff skipped the bulk of the speech and delivered brief greetings in half a dozen languages.
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Which are the places more likely to be struck by lightning?

The place most likely to be struck by lightning in the world is one spot above Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, according to new data. Over this mountain lake, there was a lightning show an astounding 297 days out of 365 days a year, on average. Even more surprising, the lightning strikes didn't occur just over the massive lake, but at one particular spot -- the point where the lake empties into the Catatumbo River, researchers said Dec. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
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In 1769 a single lightning bolt killed 3000 people in Brescia, Italy.

In 1769 a single lightning bolt killed 3000 people in Brescia, Italy, and caused a large part of the city to be destroyed! Over 200,000 pounds of explosives were stored in the Church of San Nazaro on Brescia when a single lightning bolt struck its tower. The resulting explosion and fire killed 3000 people and destroyed a large part of the city.
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Earthquake lightning?

What was that strange light in the sky? Many people overnight reported seeing strange lights in the sky, a phenomenon that has been reported for centuries before, during, and after earthquakes. Seismologists aren't in agreement about the causes of the hotly-debated phenomenon - called earthquake lights or, sometimes, earthquake lightning. And, of course, it's not clear whether the lights overnight in New Zealand were the phenomenon, or something else. One theory suggests dormant electrical charges in rocks are triggered by the stress of the Earth's crust and plate tectonics, transferring the charge to the surface where it appears as light. Historical reports include globes, or orbs, of glowing light, floating just above the ground or in the sky. Much like tidal research, it is an area that is notoriously difficult to investigate. Tidal stresses and their effects on the Earth are minute, but measurable, although many seismologists remain unconvinced by theories of "tidally triggered" earthquakes. With "earthquake light", the phenomenon is also notoriously difficult to observe, study, and measure.​ GNS seismologist Caroline Holden said there were anecdotal reports of lights in the sky. "Unfortunately, we cannot measure this phenomena or its extent with our instruments to provide a clear explanation," she said. The phenomenon has been documented for centuries. Hypotheses have suggested the movement of rocks could generate an electric field, others suggest quakes can lead to rocks conducting electromagnetic energy and a subsequent build up of electric charges in the upper atmosphere. Yet another theory suggests a link between the electric charge, or current, released by the earth ripping and buckling below the surface, and the magnetic properties of rock. The charge appears as light, so the theory goes. People reported similar strange lights in the sky during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. In 1888, before a large quake around the Hanmer region, a strange glow in the sky was reported by observers. One recent study documented hundreds of sightings of strange light, glowing, and aurora-like reports, from 1600 to the 19th century. The study in the Seismological Research Letters suggested a charge builds up in rock inside the Earth's crust and, as it becomes rapidly unstable in a quake, expands outward. In an earthquake, the electrical charge transfers from below the surface to the surface, or above, depending on the conductivity of the rock - appearing as light. "When such an intense charge state reaches the Earth's surface and crosses the ground–air interface, it is expected to cause [an electric transmission and breakdown] of the air and, hence, an outburst of light. "This process is suspected to be responsible for flashes of light coming out of the ground and expanding to considerable heights at the time when seismic waves from a large earthquake pass by." The study said some seismologists also think the theory could account for other phenomena, such as changes to electrical fields, strange fog, haze, clouds, and low-frequency humming or radio frequency emission. In the study, the researchers found the light was more often associated with a type of quake in which tectonic plates are wrenched apart, known as a "rift" earthquake
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A 36-year-old diver was killed after lightning struck his oxygen tank!

A 36-year-old diver was killed off a Florida beach after lightning struck his oxygen tank, authorities have said. The man was diving with three others off a boat near Deerfield Beach on Sunday. When he surfaced, ‘lighting struck his tank,’ said Deerfield Beach fire Chief Gary Fernaays. ‘He was approximately 30 feet from the boat at the time.’
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More than 400 people were killed in southern Egypt when lightning struck a depot's fuel tanks.

More than 400 people were killed in southern Egypt, most of them when blazing fuel flooded into a village from a depot struck by lightning in a rainstorm. Lightning struck the depot's eight fuel tanks toward the end of the storm that raged across much of Egypt for up to five hours.
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Lightning bolt hit Vatican twice, hours after Pope's Benedict XVI's shock resignation.

Lightning bolt hit Vatican twice, hours after Pope's Benedict XVI's shock resignation. The lightning touched the roof of St. Peter's Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic churches, hours after Pope’s shock announcement. The spooky moment, believed by some, to be a sign from God, was caught on camera by AFP photographer Filippo Monteforte.
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...what a moonbow is?

Moonbows, also known as lunar rainbows, are the dimmer cousin of more common daylight rainbows, made possible from the refraction of raindrops by moonlight, rather than sunlight. Moonbows are so rare because moonlight is not usually bright, and the alignment of conditions needed for them don't happen often. According to Atmospheric Optics, a bright near-full moon must be less than 42 degrees above the horizon, illuminating rain on the opposite side of a dark sky.
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Lightning can strike at sea!

In a rare incident of its kind, a coastguard diver and a citizen were killed after they were struck by a lightning bolt off Khairan beach of Kuwait on the 8th of May 2016. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that a jet ski of citizen Saad Khaled Al-Shereeda broke down and a coastguard boat was dispatched to rescue him. The ministry added that the coastguard diver, Abdullah Othman Al-Doussary, jumped in the water to help the man, but they were both struck by lightning and were killed instantly. In October last year, an Asian was killed by lightning in northern Kuwait during a freak storm. It is estimated that 6,000 to as many as 24,000 people are killed around the world by lightning strikes every year.
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A teenage girl survived a terrifying lightning strike, saved by her iPod wire!

A teenage girl survived a terrifying lightning strike after she was saved by the wire of her iPod. Schoolgirl Sophie Frost and her boyfriend Mason Billington, both 14, stopped to shelter under a tree when a storm struck as they were walking near their homes. They were struck by a lightning but survived! Doctors believe Sophie survived the 300,000-volt surge only because it travelled through the gadget’s wire, diverting it away from her vital organs.
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Upside-down lightning strikes exist and pose a great threat to wind turbines!

Upward lightning strikes initiate on the ground and head skyward. These discharges, which usually begin at the top of tall and slender structures, pose a real risk for wind turbines. An EPFL study analyzes the mechanisms underlying this poorly understood phenomenon.
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Animals can have storm phobia!

According to WbMD, storm phobia is very real and should be taken seriously. Loyal masters are often awaken in the middle of the night – not from the thunder – but from the uninvited pet jumping in the bed looking for comfort from the storm. Cases of storm phobia in pets can be much more severe and should not be ignored. They say some pets have been known to “claw through drywall, chew carpets, or break through windows in their escalating panic.”
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Animals get struck by lightning, too.

Lightning strikes about 100 times every second of the day, mainly in warmer regions of the world. About 240,000 people are injured by lightning every year, and 24,000 die after being struck. But humans aren’t the only victims of lightning — animals are, too, though reports of such deaths are far rarer than the deaths themselves.
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On July 13, 1977, New York City endured a 25-hour blackout after lightning strikes power lines.

On July 13, 1977, New York City endured a 25-hour blackout after lightning strikes power lines, prompting widespread arson, looting, and riots. The blackout was to many a metaphor for the gloom that had already settled on the city. An economic decline, coupled with rising crime rates and the panic-provoking (and paranoia-inducing) Son of Sam murders, had combined to make the late 1970s New York’s Dark Ages.
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A man was blown out of boots after being hit by a lightning bolt!

A man in Atlanta, USA was lucky to be alive after he was struck by lightning, blowing him right out of his work boots. Sean O’Connor was doing yard work Saturday when he was struck by a bolt of lightning and knocked unconscious. According to the 30-year-old, the sun was shining and there appeared to be no threat of storms when he began working in his yard.
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The plane carrying the Spanish national football team home from the World Cup in Brazil was struck by lightning on the 22nd of June 2014!

The plane carrying the Spanish national football team home from the World Cup in Brazil was struck by lightning on the 22nd of June 2014 as it approached its landing in Madrid, adding to the streak of bad luck the team seemed to be on after its World Cup defeat.
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Lightning caused deaths are fewer every year, at least in the US!

This decade will go down in weather history as one of the wildest in modern times. Since 2010, we’ve seen both the widest and strongest tornado on record touch down in Oklahoma. Mexico felt the wrath of the strongest hurricane ever recorded in terms of wind speed. The American West is enduring a years-long drought with no end in sight. But it’s not all bad news. This decade is also on track to see the lowest number of lightning deaths we’ve ever recorded in the United States, and that’s quite the accomplishment.
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Tiny lightning bolt explosions can vaporise the moon’s thin soil

Mini-lightning may flash in the coldest craters on the moon, melting and vapourising soil. All that sparking could have altered the surface as much as impacts from incoming rocks and dust. The outer layer of the moon is a sort of history book recording the interactions between the moon and the rest of the solar system. To correctly interpret that history, we need to understand the mechanisms that shape it.
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Lightning knocked out Internet on Cayman’s Island!

A lightning strike along one of the submarine cables that connects Cayman’s Internet to the rest of the world knocked out Internet service for many on Grand Cayman Tuesday evening. The lightning hit a landing station at the U.S. end of the Maya-1 cable system between Cancun, Mexico and Hollywood, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon, affecting Internet access and some phone service in Cayman, according to local telecom companies and regulators.
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