News archive

Backup Lightning Imaging Sensor to Finally Get Its Day in Space (18/2/2017)

A backup copy of an imaging instrument that launched into space in 1997 is getting its chance to fly. The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Saturday (Feb. 18) on the 10th SpaceX cargo resupply mission for the agency. If all goes according to plan, this imaging tool will be mounted on the exterior of the orbiting lab so it can capture real-time observations of lightning strikes on Earth, NASA officials said in a statement. This instrument that is headed to the station on Saturday was built as a backup to the original LIS instrument, which launched in 1997 aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and collected lightning data for 17 years before being shut down. [Photos: Earth's Lightning Seen from Space] "The LIS used in this follow-on mission is an exact duplicate of the sensor used on TRMM," Richard Blakeslee, science lead for the LIS at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement from the agency. "But it will sample lightning over a wider geographical area." The TRMM satellite orbited Earth between 35 degrees north latitude and 35 degrees south latitude, so the original LIS could observe only the planet's tropical regions. The space station, however, has a higher orbital inclination and therefore provides a vantage point that will allow the LIS to observe areas closer to the poles in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, NASA officials said. The LIS is scheduled for a two-year mission on the orbiting lab, during which time it will measure the "amount, rate and optical characteristics of lightning on Earth," NASA officials said in the statement. The imaging tool will also study the connection between lightning and other severe weather events, like convective storms and tornadoes. Mounting the LIS to the exterior of the space station allows for observations to be downloaded in real time and used to improve weather forecasts and storm preparedness around the globe. The data collected from the LIS will be used in conjunction with observations from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper — a weather instrument recently launched on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) GOES-16 satellite. "The space-based vantage point allows us to observe all forms of lightning over land and sea, 24 hours a day," Blakeslee said in the statement. "The orbit of the space station will allow LIS to look at lightning distributions over different times of the day, further enhancing our knowledge of the complicated dynamics of lightning."
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Could we capture and store energy from lightning?

In parts of Venezuela, there are lightning storms almost 300 nights each year, producing skies so bright that navigators once used them as a lighthouse. So could lightning be used to power the planet instead of fossil fuels? Karl Kruszelnicki finds out. Last time I talked about how lightning actually comes into existence, and how it hits our planet about 44 times each second. So why don't we capture this awesome lightning power, and use it to run our industries and boil our kettles? Well, to answer that, the obvious place to is a lightning capital of the world: Lake Maracaibo in the state of Zulia in Venezuela. Venezuela is so far north in the continent of South America that it actually sits in the Northern Hemisphere, running from the Equator to about 10 degrees north. In Lake Maracaibo, lightning storms happen about 297 days of each year. That's over 80 per cent of the time. In fact, the locals have put a lightning bolt on the official state flag—to fit in better with the scenery. Now Lake Maracaibo is not actually a lake, because it is connected to the sea by the Tablazo Strait. This strait is over five kilometres wide where it meets the Gulf of Venezuela. This so-called 'lake' is about 200 kilometres across, and is a major shipping route for Venezuela's crude oil. But if the locals call it a lake, I'm happy to play along. So far, we've got the lake—which is not really a lake—in a part of South America, which is actually in the Northern Hemisphere. Lightning storms are so constant that they've earned the name 'the Never-Ending Storm of Catatumbo'. The name comes from the Catatumbo River that empties into Lake Maracaibo. The water is warm, and the atmosphere is very humid—after all, it's only 10 degrees from the Equator. But the mouth of the river is surrounded on three sides, like a horseshoe, by three mountain ranges. When the cold dry air from the mountains meets the hot and humid air, you've got the best possible conditions for lightning. The storm clouds build up to an altitude of over a kilometre. Within an hour of the storm clouds forming, the lightning starts flashing. The flash rate quickly accelerates up to 200 flashes per second. A typical lightning storm lasts for 10 hours, and this happens nearly 300 nights each year. The clouds are like an enormous light bulb, flashing in the sky. It's bright enough to read a newspaper in the middle of the night. The storms reach their peak in September, but according to the locals, the prettiest storms happen in November each year. These storms are so powerful and so regular that they have been used by European navigators for the last four centuries as a natural lighthouse. In fact, they're nicknamed 'Maracaibo's Lighthouse'. So we've come to the right place to develop the technology to capture and use lightning. But before we start thinking about lightning rods and enormous banks of tens of thousands of giant ultra-capacitors, let's take a look at what the scientists would call the numbers. Typically, each lightning bolt carries about 500 megajoules (MJ) of energy. What does that mean in plain English? First, 500 MJ is the amount of energy needed to run an average Western house for about a week. Second, 500 MJ is the amount of energy in about 38 litres of petrol or gasoline (or about 4.2 US gallons). And third, 500 MJ is enough energy to boil about 1,500 kettles of water. Suppose that we could capture all the energy from all the 1.4 billion lightning bolts that happen each year. In that case, we would have enough energy to make 100 cups of tea for each human on the planet, each year. That works out to a cuppa every three or four days. Now that's quite surprising. Before I did the numbers, my gut feeling wrongly told me that the energy from lightning could easily provide bulk energy for the whole world. Instead, all it would do is give you a few cups of tea each week. Even though lightning is very impressive, it's no match for the energy-hungry society that we humans have developed over the last few centuries. With no trouble at all, we can easily burn more than 38 litres of petrol in travelling from one Australian capital city to the next—and that's the amount of energy in just one lightning bolt. So harnessing lightning can't compete with fossil fuels, but it's still enough for a cuppa, so enjoy that zap of energy while you can.
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A lot of electrical activity over central Mediterranean on Monday, 6/2/2017

Thunderstorms occurred yesterday (Monday, 6/2/2017) over the west coast of the Balkans and the maritime areas south of Italy. The ZEUS lightning detection system recorded over 1000 flashes in these areas.
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Lightning kills 5 secondary students, 34 badly injured in Zimbabwe (31/1/2017)

Five students at a secondary school in Zimbabwe, Chinatsa Secondary School died while 34 were hospitalised after lightning struck the school during assembly on Thursday afternoon. According to teachers at the school, two students died on the spot while the other three died at Marondera Provincial Hospital where they had been referred to for treatment.
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Heat, flood, cold & lightning killed 1,600 Indians in 2016 (16/1/17)

NEW DELHI: More than 1,600 people died due to extreme weather conditions across the country last year, with severe heat wave claiming the largest chunk of the total deaths at 40%, followed by flooding and lightning. India Meteorological Department (IMD) said 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded, globally and in India. Phalodi in Rajasthan recorded 51 degrees Celsius, the highest ever temperature recorded in the country. January and February were the warmest winter months ever, according to IMD, which has been recording weather patterns since 1901. Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra topped the casualty list with the states contributing 35% of the total death toll. Together, they recorded 552 deaths due to extreme weather patterns. According to an IMD report, 40% of deaths were due to heat wave, which claimed over 700 lives, with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh together recording the maximum deaths i.e. more than 400. Gujarat and Maharashtra registered 87 and 43 deaths due to heat wave, respectively; cold wave claimed 53 lives. Lightning claimed more than 415 lives with the worst hit being Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Odisha alone recorded more than 132 deaths due to lightning, while 43 deaths occurred in Maharashtra. IMD last year started issuing summer and winter forecasts with heat wave and cold wave warnings. After two consecutive droughts, India last year had a normal monsoon, but several parts saw heavy to very heavy rainfall, that led to floods in many areas. Over 475 lives were lost in floods and thunderstorms. Bihar alone saw nearly 146 deaths due to flooding be tween July 25 to September 3.2016 saw four cyclonic storms in the Bay of Bengal, the major being severe cyclonic storm Vardah, which killed 18 people in Tamil Nadu. "Accurate predictions helped minimise loss of lives during Vardah and prediction of heavy rains. But when it comes to events like lightning, it becomes difficult as in several instances it takes places in villages and hamlets. Mobile companies can play a proactive role in helping disseminate information in a particular district or hamlet by sending alerts," IMD director general KJ Ramesh said.
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Slovakian motorcyclist survives lightning strike in Dakar rally (5/1/2017)

Slovakian motorcyclist Ivan Jakes has miraculously survived a lightning strike while riding his motorbike in the Dakar rally in South America, Slovakian radio reported on Thursday. The incident occurred during the rally’s third stage near the Argentinian city of San Salvador de Jujuy. The motorcyclist managed to put down one of his feet from the bike onto the ground, thanks to which the electric discharge went through him, the radio said. The motorcyclist feels well and wishes to continue his participation in the rally. This issue will be decided by doctors after Jake undergoes a comprehensive medical check-up, the radio said. The Dakar rally’s next stage 521 km long will be held on Thursday.
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Lightning strikes and a Christmas washout in northern Europe (28/12/2016)

Two planes have been struck by lightning in Denmark as Storm Urd sweeps across Scandinavia. In Germany, a woman has been killed after a tree fell onto her car in stormy weather. Two planes en route to Copenhagen in Denmark were struck by lightning on Monday. A Scandinavian Airlines flight from Reykjavik in Iceland was forced to make an emergency landing on the Danish island of Bornholm with more than 100 people on board. Passengers were due to continue their journey on Tuesday after staying on the island overnight. The plane had already been diverted after strong winds prevented it from landing in Copenhagen on Monday afternoon. The plane was then struck by lightning on approach to Malmö Airport, in Sweden, and subsequently redirected to Bornholm. A plane traveling from London was also struck by lightning but was able to complete its journey to the Danish capital. Copenhagen Airport warned that strong winds were likely to cause further disruption to flights on Tuesday. Storm Urd has swept over Scandinavia during the Christmas holidays, causing flooding, power blackouts and transport disruption across Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Authorities in all three countries reportedly advised people in the areas worst affected to consider staying at home on Monday night. Gales and heavy rain hit northern Germany on Monday. Emergency fire services in Hamburg attended some 80 call-outs in relation to the bad weather and there were reports of flooded property and toppling trees and scaffolding. In nearby Kiel, a 34-year-old woman was killed when a tree fell onto her car during stormy weather. A 24-year-old male passenger was taken to Kiel university hospital with serious injuries. Storm Conor brought rain and winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour to the north of the United Kingdom on Tuesday morning. This follows on from Storm Barbara, which left thousands of homes without power in northern Scotland last week. Further south, major roads were closed due to icy conditions.
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Zap! 'Petrified Lightning' Could Reveal the Shocking Heat of the Strikes (17/12/16)

Petrified lightning, or rocks that have been zapped and superheated by a lightning strike, could reveal details about the shocking weather phenomenon, new research suggests. When lightning strikes a rock, the huge jolt of current heats up the material for microseconds, vaporizes substances inside and forms a glassy rock called fulgurite, study co-author Jiangzhi Chen, an applied physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, said here Wednesday (Dec. 14) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. By analyzing the bubbles that form inside fulgurite, Chen and his colleagues can calculate hot the material gets, and that, in turn, can reveal insights into how exactly lightning works, Chen said. [Electric Earth: Stunning Images of Lightning] Lightning occurs when an electrical current is transmitted from clouds to the ground, illuminating the sky and creating dangerously high voltage. But even though this is one of the more everyday occurrences in nature, scientists understand very little about how lightning actually works. Researchers have a variety of methods of measuring the energy and current generated during a lightning strike, such as taking pictures of the actual strikes. But because lightning strikes are random, it can be hard to catch them in action. What's more, many of those methods can differ by several orders of magnitude, Chen said. By contrast, fresh fulgurite can be easily acquired a day or two after a lightning strike. The rock is also easily distinguishable: It has reddish patches and burn marks from the lightning strike, Chen said. Fulgurite is also filled with bubbles that form when substances such as carbon dioxide, water and oxygen in the rock vaporize, Chen added. To see if they could get understand the temperatures and energy levels reached when lightning strikes, Chen and his colleagues cut a piece of fulgurite rock from the top of Mount Mottarone in Italy. Chen then thinly sliced the rock, put it under a microscope, and characterized the size, distribution and number of vapor bubbles in the material. Scientists can determine the underlying composition of the rock by measuring the frequencies of light that reflect off of it. Knowing that, combined with a model of how frequently bubbles seed at different temperatures, Chen and his colleagues can come up with an estimation of just how hot the rock got during the lightning zap, and how long it stayed hot. That, in turn, can give some understanding of the lightning strike's total energy, he said. Still, there are some limitations in this estimate. When lightning strikes "only a fraction of the energy is actually transmitted to the rock," Chen told Live Science. The rest gets dissipated as it electrifies the air and causes the thunder that accompanies the strikes, among other things, he said. Right now, the findings are a matter of pure scientific curiosity, but they could potentially make it easier to study other huge shocks to the Earth, such as bomb blasts and meteorite strikes. "Those impact events are relatively to difficult to study, but lightning hitting a target is relatively easy to find," Chen said.
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More than 50,000 lightning strikes hit South Australia (8/12/20116)

SOUTH Australians were treated to a natural sky show last night as a severe thunderstorm delivered tens of thousands of lightning strikes across the state from Wednesday afternoon. More than 50,000 lightning strikes were recorded as the storm moved east across the state. The storm reached the city when night fell and persisted until about midnight, giving photographers plenty of opportunities to capture the perfect shot. Fresh strikes were still recorded in the North East Pastoral region about 11.30am on Thursday. Rain came with the lightning, with a good drenching at Mount Lofty. More than 28mm of rain was recorded in the Mount Lofty Ranges in the 24-hours to 9am on Thursday — the highest rainfall overnight in the state. The city copped about 8mm of rainfall while Charleston in the hills, received 23mm. Photographer Harley Cummins was driving home when he saw the skies lit up so he pulled over at Brighton Beach about 11pm. “The lightning just kept coming and coming,” he said. “It wasn’t until the lightning stopped before it started pouring.”
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Five-year-old boy hit by lightning after touching tap during Gold Coast storm (7/12/16)

A young boy has been taken to hospital and several people in a unit block have been assessed by paramedics after separate lightning strikes on homes on the Gold Coast. The five-year-old suffered burns to his hands and back around 4.45pm on Wednesday at a house at Tallai, said Gavin Fuller from Queensland Ambulance. “He was hanging onto a tap at the time the house or near the house was struck by lightning ... he’s been taken to Robina hospital in a stable condition,” Fuller said. It came after paramedics were called to a unit block in Miami, which was also struck by lightning. “That lightning has travelled through the roof, through the eaves, onto a metal fence and down into the cement, and it has blown quite a large hole in the cement,” Fuller said. Fortunately no one was injured in that situation, although a number of people, including a woman in her 50s, were treated at the scene for shock. The lightning strikes were due to thunderstorms rolling across the Gold Coast region, as well as the Sunshine Coast on Wednesday afternoon. The storms had largely moved out to sea by 5.45pm, however bureau forecaster Andrew Bufalino said volatile conditions would continue into the evening. It follows an early morning storm which rolled over the region leaving thousands without power as almost 40,000 lightning strikes hit, the second such early-morning display in as many days.
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Sydney lightning storm kills one, sends beachgoers scrambling (6/12/2016)

A man has died and a woman was injured after lightning struck their campsite on a mountain summit in New South Wales. More than 6,000 lightning bolts lit up Sydney's sky as severe thunderstorms hit the state. "Lightning struck a tree, there was two campers were in a tent at the base of the tree and as a result we've had a male that's died and a woman that's been taken to hospital with neck injuries," says Tweed Byron Police Commander Wayne Starling. Two hikers tried to resuscitate the man for over an hour. At the storm's peak there were more than 500 strikes an hour. Beachgoers in Bondi were forced to find shelter. "There was the most incredible noise and explosion, the like of which I've never heard before," said Sydney local Geoff McIntyre. "And I thought God it seemed it hit just outside the window and then you could smell smoke and you couldn't see across the river." At the airport international flights were delayed. Ground staff were ordered undercover to avoid the risk of being struck. And this is just the start with meteorologists warning a destructive season's on its way.
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Vicious storm cell wreaks havoc across Sydney (5/12/2016)

A brief but vicious storm has left a man struck by lightning, a house on fire, another struck by a falling tree, heavy rain and hail and delays to planes and trains. Sydney was hammered by the hour-long storm on Monday afternoon, wreaking havoc across the city. A yachtsman was hit by one of 5000 of lightning strikes and taken to hospital in Mona Vale, according to 9 News. In Huntleys Cove, on Sydney's Lower North Shore, a house caught fire after being struck by lightning. he mother and two daughters inside escaped safely. In Peakhurst, a house was damaged when a falling tree struck it, it was reported. Flights at the city's airport were delayed by up to two hours due to the storm. Motorists were also delayed after severe storms cut power to traffic signals across the city. All trains between Granville and Cabramatta were cancelled briefly on Monday afternoon as urgent repairs were undertaken on equipment battered by storms. Train passengers in most directions out of the city were told to brace for delays. Up to 16mm fell in Little Bay during the short but severe downpour. Earlier, asthma and hay fever suffers in Sydney were told to stay indoors after the predicted thunderstorms to avoid experiencing breathing problems. Respiratory physician Dr Jonathan Burdon, who chairs the National Asthma Council of Australia, said the rain was likely to stir rye grass starches and pollen which made going outside risky after the storm. 'It's really after the rain has been where the pollen gets ruptured and the starch granules start being released into the atmosphere,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Monday. 'Once the wind starts it will blow up the pollens.'
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Adverse weather conditionds cause major floods on Lesvos (29/11/2016)

The Monday evening storms flooded many homes and shops and turned streets into rivers in Kalloni and Plomari, on the island of Lesvos. Local media reported that there was more than 200 mm of rainfall in the evening, which caused many rivers to overflow. As a result the schools in the area of Kalloni will remain closed on Tuesday. Serious problems were also experienced in Plomari, where the Fire Brigade had to be called out to remove a car that was swept away by the Sedountas River. The Fire Brigade and municipal authorities are working hard to restore problems and have advised drivers not to move unnecessarily.
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Adverse weather conditions in Greece cause one death and major damages (28/11/2016)

The heavy rainfall and thunderstorms that struck Greece over the weekend resulted in one death and many damages across the country. A 32-year-old man in Zakynthos tragically lost his life on Saturday, after his car got stuck in a flooded ditch. It appears that he managed to get out of the vehicle, but was swept away by the strong torrents, as the Fire Brigade later found his body about three kilometers away from the car. The adverse weather conditions are expected to continue on Monday, with the temperature expected to drop by up to ten degrees in many areas in the country. Conditions in the southern Ionian, Peloponnesus, central Greece and the Aegean islands are expected to be more intense than in the rest of the country.
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One feared dead as storms continue to batter northern Italy (27/11/2016)

Torrential downpours caused flooding in parts of northwest Italy on Thursday, with the rains expected to continue until the weekend. On Friday morning, police were searching for a missing person in Perosa Argentina, a small town southwest of Turin. According to initial reports, the man is a 70-year-old who fell into the Pellice tributary of the Po river, after a road collapsed. He was reportedly trying to help his horses when he got swept away. The floods forced the closure of many roads, schools and businesses in the Piedmont and Liguria regions near southeastern France, which has also been hit by heavy rain. Production has been halted at the Ferrero factory in Alba, which produces Nutella and Ferrero Rocher among other chocolatey treats, due to fears over the high level of the nearby Tanaro river. Most bridges in Turin have been closed due to safety worries, as the Po rose to a metre above its designated safety level. A red alert warning, the highest level, is still in place in Liguria until at least midday. A total of around 400 people have been evacuated from their homes in Piedmont; 250 in Cuneo and 150 in Turin, while a further 200 have been evacuated in Liguria. The presidents of the two regions said they would ask for a "state of natural disaster" to be put in place. This is different from the "state of emergency" which was put in place after the central Italy earthquakes earlier this year and is used only for disasters affecting the country on a national level. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Turin on Thursday to meet members of the Piedmont region's Civil Protection Department and local authorities. Renzi said: "The emergency phase is not over; no one can breathe a sigh of relief just yet." Italian television channels showed footage of the Tanaro river bursting its banks and cutting in two the town of Garessio in Cuneo province near the tiny Mediterranean principality of Monaco. "We are frightened, this reminds us of the floods of 1994," Garessio mayor Sergio di Steffano told reporters. Flooding on November 5 and 6, 1994, left 70 people dead. No casualties have yet been reported from Thursday's storms. "We have shut all the bridges, factories and schools. The bars and shops in the (town) centre are flooded. The main road is shut, we are cut off from the world," di Steffano said. Isolated hamlets have been made inaccessible by the flooding and road closures. A leading local official from Cuneo, Giovanni Russo, called on residents to stay away from the water except in case of absolute necessity.
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Lightning activity over western Mediterranean continued on Thursday, 24/11/2016

Thousands of lightning strikes over western Mediterranean on Thursday, 24/11/2016. ZEUS, the lightning detection network of the National Observatory of Athens, recorded over 8000 strikes, spread from the first to the last hour of the day.
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A lot of lightning recorded yesterday (23/11/2016) over French, Spanish and Portuguese coasts and the Pyrenees.

Over 12000 lightning strikes were recorded over southwestern Europe, by the lightning detection system ZEUS of the National Observatory of Athens, on Wednesday, 23/11/2016. The most affected regions were the Portuguese coasts and off-coast Atlantic regions, the Spanish and French Mediterranean coasts and the regions around Pyrenees.
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Police, lifeguards and coastguard helicopter search for 2 people in the water as Environment Agency issues 75 flood warnings across battered Britain in the aftermath of Storm Angus (22/11/2016)

A woman is in a life-threatening condition after being pulled from the sea as Britain is battered by yet another day of wind and rain. The woman, who has not been named, was found after police, lifeguards and a coastguard helicopter were deployed on a search operation off the coast of Folkstone, Kent. She was airlifted to hospital this morning. Reports suggest another person remains in the water and another rescue mission is underway. The Environment Agency has issued 75 fresh flood warnings today, telling dozens of communities, mainly in the South West and North East, to 'take immediate action' as 'flooding is expected'. Today thousands of commuters face renewed travel chaos as the country continues to reel from the effects of Storm Angus - which brought hurricane force winds and driving downpours to southern Britain on Sunday. Meanwhile search teams were waiting for conditions to improve to resume an operation to find a pensioner who went missing in South Wales. Wind warnings issued by the Met Office are due to remain in place until later this morning, with gusts of up to 70mph recorded on the Isle of Wight. Police have been searching for Russell Sherwood, 69, along flooded land after he went missing while on his way to pick up his wife in the Stormy Down area of Bridgend in South Wales. Search teams assisted by a helicopter searched the River Ogmore along the A48 road for Mr Sherwood on Monday morning. But police announced they were standing down their search at 3.40pm due to the extreme weather and fading light. A spokesman for South Wales Police said: 'Officers will resume the search tomorrow once safe to do so. 'We are still appealing to the public for any information to locate Mr Sherwood who became missing after he set off on a car journey on the morning of Sunday, 20 November, 2016.' Mr Sherwood, from Neath in South Wales, was on his way to pick up his wife in Bridgend in his silver Ford Focus around 6.15am on Sunday, but never reached his destination. The news about Mr Sherwood comes as an elderly woman, who has not been named, was found at her home in the Pollokshields area of Glasgow yesterday morning. It is not known how long she had been there for but temperatures dropped below freezing in the area over the weekend. More than 100 homes have been hit by flooding after heavy rain and wind brought by Storm Angus hit the country yesterday. There were also reports of people being helped from their vehicles. Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said two people were 'assisted from a vehicle' on the B3109 in South Wraxall. While in Carmarthenshire, Wales, Dyfed Powys Police said a man was helped from a van which had become trapped in flood water before it was 'washed away'. Meanwhile, passengers and crew onboard a Stena Europe ferry were forced to stay on board after the vessel failed to dock in Fishguard Harbour at 12.30pm after sailing from Rosslare, Ireland at 9am. A spokeswoman for Stena Line said: 'The health and safety of passengers and crew is of paramount importance to Stena Line, therefore the 87 passengers and 59 crew members will remain onboard overnight until a second attempt at docking takes place at midday tomorrow.' In the North of England, flood warnings have been issued for parts of Greater Manchester as torrential rain continues to fall in the area. The fire service have urged people to remain in their homes due to 'neck-deep' water and there have also been reports of people being rescued from their first and second floor windows.
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Earthquake: strange glowing in the sky possibly 'earthquake lightning' (14/11/2016)

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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Brisbane battered by huge hailstones and 3,000 lightning strikes that cut power to entire neighbourhoods (09/11/2016)

Brisbane was battered by huge hailstones and more than 3,000 lightning strikes as fierce storms pounded south-east Queensland. More than 2,000 homes were without power after the storm on Tuesday afternoon, which saw 18mm of rain fall in just 30 minutes. Shocked residents filmed as massive hailstones crashed to the earth, with 5cm chunks of ice coming down in Ipswich, west of Brisbane. The ferocious storm is the just the start of the bad weather in Queensland this week, with four more days of thunder and lightning ahead. The first flashes of lightning were spotted about 3pm on the outskirts of Brisbane and continued until at least 6pm. As many as 3,000 lightning bolts hit Brisbane and Ipswich today, according to Weatherzone, but fortunately no one was hurt. The summer storm came on the hottest day in parts of Brisbane since February, with highs of just under 38C. But the temperature quickly plummeted by up to seven degrees as the rain and hail swept in. More than 2,000 homes are with out power, with most of the blackouts on the Sunshine Coast, the Brisbane Times reported. There were further power cuts in Ipswich and Brisbane's CBD. Darwin is also facing a week of storms, with no sign of a day without thunder and lightning in the next week. After a balmy weekend, Sydney is in for a couple of cooler few days. Showers are forecast on Wednesday and Thursday, with the sunshine returning in proper on Sunday, when temperatures could reach 29C. It will be a wet week in Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide too. Perth is set for showers too, with rain on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But the west coast city will be bathed in sunshine on Sunday and Monday, when temperatures could reach 31C. Meanwhile, in Hobart, it will be cloudy tomorrow, with highs of 20C, before a week of rain.
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