Is it just me, or does this photo make you want to throw your hands in the air? Raise the roof, Mother Nature, because this lightning display is quite literally, unbelievable.
A “bucket-list shot,” that’s how photographer Blake Brown described capturing these simultaneous, upward lightning strikes over Sioux Falls, S.D.:
I’m a tour guide/driver for Extreme Tornado Tours. We have been chasing non stop since April 10. After chasing from central Kansas up to South Dakota we decided to stay in Sioux Falls with the squall line pushing through. The lightning was flashing non stop! I noticed some tall cell towers as we came into town and wanted to try to get some upward lightning video. A month before this, video showed some amazing upward lightning coming from Oklahoma City. With a similar set up, I took my shot at trying to get this same video. After sitting about three miles from the towers the amazing double branched upward lightning showed itself.
So what is upward lightning? First, a quick lesson on how lightning forms within thunderstorms. Think of a thunderstorm like a battery, having both positively and negatively charges within the cloud. Typically, positively charged particles exist within the ice crystals, which reside high in the cloud while negatively charged particles within liquid droplets exist toward the bottom of the cloud. When these oppositely charged particles within the cloud attract, cloud-to-cloud lightning occurs. When the negatively charged particles at the bottom of the cloud attract with positively charged particles on the surface of the Earth, cloud-to-ground lightning occurs.
Upward lightning is a relatively new meteorological phenomena in the research world. The Royal Meteorological Society describes it as lightning that occurs after a nearby lightning strike. “The electric field change caused by the nearby flash causes an upward positive leader to initiate from a tall object, such as a building, tower or wind turbine.” Research suggests that without a tall object near the initial lightning strike, an upward lightning strike would not occur.
In-depth research on this topic is being done by Tom A Warner, in associated with a project called Uplights, the Upward Lightning Triggering Study. Upward lightning was first observed back in the 1930s, when upward flashes were documented off the Empire State Building. Now, the Uplights project is striving to learn more, including deciphering what types of storms (i.e. supercells vs. mesoscale convective systems) are most likely to form upward lightning.
Just in case the photo wasn’t enough, here’s Blake’s video of the jaw-dropping lightning display lightning up the sky over Sioux Falls.
Weather is awesome. #cwgpicoftheweek