Lightning Strike Video

April 14th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

leader-stroke
I’ve mentioned the TV tower I live next to (er…I mean “mast”), and at 1,000 1,500 ft tall it is a great lightning attractor. Since the top of the tower is up at a 60+ deg. angle, it’s a little hard on the neck to watch, so I sometimes lie down in the backyard to watch.

The severe storms that moved through town on Thursday gave me a chance to capture some lightning video with my Sony Handycam. Lightning was coming out of a thunderstorm anvil in advance of the squall line and hitting the tower before the rain arrived, a prime time for viewing. The strokes were coming every 3-5 minutes. The lightning strike I got video of started with an upward leader stroke (see the above frame grab).

In the video (below) the conducting channel of air is blown rapidly sideways by the wind, leading to a right-angle turn in the bolt at the top of the antenna. Then there’s a second stroke which reconnects more directly to the antenna, but it’s really only noticeable when individual frames are examined.

This is handheld, and I’m zoomed in pretty tight, but the Handycam’s image stabilization does a pretty good job. Oh..and turn the sound up!


11 Responses to “Lightning Strike Video”

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  1. Massimo PORZIO says:

    Gasp!
    I can’t imagine the electronics attached to that antenna now…
    By the way, in late 80s I repaired a repeater of our local radio club which was shot by a lightning on its power supply line. Well, despite the main circuit breaker was completely sublimated in the contacts part of it, the rest of the circuitry was still working.
    I couldn’t believe it, but I swear it’s true.

  2. O Olson says:

    Fantastic!
    I’ve been a lightning hound since I was a kid and Dad always had to call me in to get out of the storm. So, judging by the duration of the stroke and the fact that it was from the anvil of the storm, was it a positive stroke then? Pretty hot and pretty cool at the same time!

  3. w.w.wygart says:

    Wow! Great video. And the electronics on the mast survived the encounter unperturbed. I never thought of lightning as something blowing in the wind. Interesting.

  4. Gordon Robertson says:

    Roy…how far away from this tower are you when you lie down in the back yard to watch it? Are you not concerned that you might become a lightning arrester yourself? I certainly would not be outside anywhere near a lightning storm.

    Out of curiosity, have you noticed streamers issuing forth from the lightning rod just before a strike? It might take a particularly black sky to notice them. I have read that strikes are initiated by streamers of current coming from the ground first, followed by the main strike from the sky.

    • Roy Spencer says:

      The tower provides the best lightning protection one could get…it basically attracts any lightning that might have struck within 2,000 ft. of it.

      The photo at the top of the post shows the upward leader that you are asking about.

  5. Beta Blocker says:

    Someone has to ask the question: is global warming causing an increase in the number and intensity of lightning strikes hitting this TV tower?

    • Roy Spencer says:

      Oh, I’m sure.

    • Mike M says:

      Or in general? Is there a satellite that’s monitoring lightening strikes? It would be an interesting study to compare tropical temperature to frequency of lightening strikes.

  6. Thanks, Dr. Spencer. Very good video!

  7. Mike M says:

    Whenever afternoon ‘popcorn’ Tstorms are around I’ve noticed that sudden heavy downpours and the downdrafts that come with them seem to often coincide with where lightening strikes. I don’t know but it makes sense to me that wherever the rainfall is heaviest is where the charged particles of air are being drawn downward closer to the ground thus making a discharge most likely in that general area (terrain and antenna masts not withstanding).

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