Lightning strike video close-up

July 13th, 2020 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

We live next to a 1,500 ft tall TV tower which frequently gets hit by lightning. We are so close, in fact, that it is difficult to get good photographs because the area just above the tower top is at an elevation angle of 70 deg. viewed from our yard, which is too steep to take pictures through a window, and for outdoor photos will cause rain to fall on the camera lens.

So, despite thousands of lightning strikes we have witnessed and heard over the years, I seldom attempt photos or video. Yesterday was one of the rare instances where the thunderstorm anvil trailing downwind of the approaching storm was sending out lightning strokes at regular, ~2 minute intervals before the rain began. This is the best time to watch the lightning for us, usually by lying down on an outdoor lounge chair and looking almost straight up.

My camera equipment was still in the car from a short trip to take photos of Comet NEOWISE the previous morning. Sensing this was a chance to capture some good video, I ran out to the car, retrieved my camera backpack and a tripod, and ran to the backyard. I set up the camera and tripod in record time, quickly adjusted the focus manually, and hit the record button.

In literally less than 1 second after pressing the record button, the best strike of the storm occurred. Here’s an animated GIF of the event… 20 video frame captures at 1/24 sec intervals (the vertical scale is exaggerated because I forced WordPress to load the full-resolution file… click on the video to see the proper perspective):

There are a lot of interesting features that I won’t go into here, except I especially like how the ionized channel breaks up into pockets of glowing air during dissipation, here’s one of the frames showing that structure:

Comments are closed.