July 23, 2016

Weather Cam Provides a VERY Close Up View of a Lightning Strike

Near midnight yesterday (Thursday at 11:58 PM), lightning was apparent in one of my favorite weather cams (skunkbayweather)--see the image below.  A classic with all kinds of forking of the lightning channel in a series of discrete steps.

Less than 15 minutes later, the unimaginable happened:  lightning nearly struck the cam, apparently hitting the water a few dozen feet away.  Amazingly you can see the undulations of the lightning channel.

You are looking at something that is hotter than the surface of the sun;  the core of lightning channels reach roughly 50,000 K (Kelvin), with the surface of the sun only around 6000 K.  The huge currents associated with lightning converts atmospheric gases into plasma, with the electrons stripped off the nuclei.  A pressure shock radiates from the superheated channel:  thunder.

There were many other amazing lightning pictures taken this morning, such as this stunning picture on Whidbey Island (Coupeville, Camp Casey) by Ron Newberry.

Lightning detection networks picked up the storms on Thursday night--here is the 24h lightning strikes ending 1 AM Friday.  Lots of lightning over the Olympics, with some moving over Whidbey.  A lot more lightning over the Cascades.  Fortunately, there was substantial rain over the Cascades and the ground is still relatively moist:  thus, few fires are expected.

Talking about rain, Thursday evening and Friday morning were pretty wet: here are the 24 totals ending 6 PM Friday PDT.  A number of locations in the Cascades received more than an inch.

The storms and rain are over now, with the next week being warm and dry.


  1. Here on the Sequim Prairie we watched the storm come from the south over the Olympics and then out to the Straits. It was a dandy and the rain was welcome too. We had a good four hours of lightning and the next morning we got a bit more.

  2. am I seeing correctly that the lightning in the Ft Casey photo is wrapping around the light pole?

  3. I think the perception of lightning wrapping around the light pole is an illusion. Electricity will always take the shortest path, so it would hit the very top of the pole with many sparks and not hit part way down. Also, the heat and shockwave would shatter the globe and bulb.

    Even if the pole was fiberglass (unlikely given the age of the Camp), it would strike the wiring at the top.

    I believe the lightning is actually striking well beyond the pole and we are seeing window reflections or other illusions on the pole itself. Assuming there is no Photoshopping going on.

    But it's still a very neat photo.

  4. I thought it was striking beyond as well but the illusion is interesting. Other thought was St Elmos Fire. With people so close, they dont seem to be reacting

    right place for a right photo. Beautiful


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