The Matthew Hurricane showed signs of intensified activity near Columbia during the past weekend. Researchers could observe an interesting phenomenon caused by the storm, namely colorful electrical discharges. They are called sprites and are a special type of lighting.
Specialists noticed the phenomenon thanks to special devices in Puerto Rico. The colorful electrical discharges are generally red, but they can also be blue. They are not shaped like regular lightning and occur above the hurricane, in the high layers of the atmosphere.
Experts have labeled the Matthew Hurricane as a highly strong storm, reaching category 5, which is among the most dangerous levels. However, despite the fury of the cyclone, researchers explain that sprites are rather weak electrical discharges.
Due to their features, sprites have several names. Scientific research identifies them as cloud-to-stratospheric lightning or upward lightning.
Sprites are both weak and quick. They last only for some milliseconds (less than ten). This is what makes it difficult for scientists to catch them on camera. The phenomenon is also relatively rare, so there are not many pictures showing it.
However, footage of the colorful electrical discharges caused by the Matthew Hurricane does exist. Specialists identified no less than twenty-eight sprites. They were captured on images on Friday night (September 30), as well as at the dawn of October 1.
Weather specialists explain that lighting is a rare phenomenon with tropical storms. However, when they do appear, it is because the specific hurricane is going through a phase of intensification. The recent phenomenon was located four hundred miles away from Puerto Rico.
Scientists also explain that these colorful electrical discharges can go as far as eighty kilometers above the ground. An interesting fact about them is that they are so rarely seen that even researchers took them for a myth. The scientific proof was provided in the late ’80s when a pilot managed to take pictures of the phenomenon.
However, specialists haven’t been able to explain properly how these electrical charges are formed . They are most likely to appear due to powerful storms and occur above them, while not hitting the ground. This is how far scientific information regarding sprites goes.
On the other hand, experts have some suggestion for people who want to spot sprites by the naked eye. One of the most important conditions is to be away from cities, where lights and pollution can affect visibility. Remember to stay focused on the upper parts of the thundercloud. Stripes could occur at a ten minutes interval. Do you think you will ever have the chance to see them?
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia