new lightning discovered

The sky’s not the limit for lightning discoveries: In the past few years, scientists have observed new high-altitude electrical phenomena called sprites, elves, and blue jets. Now Han-Tzong Su of National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan and his colleagues report in the June 25 Nature that they’ve observed another new type of lightning — “gigantic jets.” The researchers used low-light cameras to capture images of the gargantuan electrical discharges shooting upward from the tops of thunderclouds over the South China Sea. The jets ascend to the ionosphere — the charged portion of the upper atmosphere — to form vast 50-mile-tall shapes resembling carrots or trees that last less than a second. By feeding negative charge from the thundercloud to the ionosphere, the researchers believe such jets may have a strong influence on what they call “Earth’s global electric circuit.”

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/01/2003.
This entry was posted in boston globe, news briefs. Bookmark the permalink.