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Pat Shingleton: "Side-Winder Lightning"

2 years 5 months 4 weeks ago March 31, 2014 Mar 31, 2014 Monday, March 31 2014 March 31, 2014 3:00 AM in Pat Shingleton Column
By: Pat Shingleton

It has long been known that lightning forms when a channel of ionized air reaching down from a cloud connects with a matching channel of air expanding upward from the ground or a grounded object. When the two meet it sets up a channel for the powerful return stroke. Researchers always believed that the downward and upward leaders always connected tip to tip. This year, Weitao Lu of the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences and his colleagues dispelled that concept when they captured a lighning bolt striking the 1,444foot International Finance Center in Guangzhou, China. Weatherwise Magazine reports that by capturing 50,000 frames per second, the downward leader connected along the "side," 220 feet below the tip of the upward leader.

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