Saturday, 30 January 2010

Scientists Discover a New Form of Lightning

by David DeFranza

The lightning observed during the eruption of Mt. Redoubt in 2009, researchers have determined, is an entirely new variety. Using radio antennas, scientists noticed that the bolts were shorter, lasting only a few milliseconds, and much more frequent than typical lightning.

Stephen McNutt, a volcano seismologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks's Geophysical Institute, became interested in lightning during the 1992 Mt. Spurr eruption. While studying the seismic data from that event, he noticed strange spikes in the records. He explains that:

The seismometers were actually picking up lightning strikes...I knew that I had to reach out to the physicists studying lightning.

He teamed up with Ronald Thomas, a physicist and electrical engineer, and Sonja Behnke, a graduate student in atmospheric science. The group formulated a research plan and started waiting for the next eruption... read more story at

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