Video Collection: Close Up Lightning Strikes

On September 7, 2013 by Tim Newman

Lightning Video Collection Close Up

Below are a collection of videos that demonstrate the ferocious energy of thunder storms. Lightning, up close and personal. Stay safe out there, people.

Lightning is probably the closest most people get to the full force of mother nature. It brings that crushing sense of how small and delicate we are, and how incredibly unlikely it is that we manage to survive in this angry universe. Videos like the ones below give me goose bumps of fear and excitement.

In England, we don’t get to feel lightning’s force all that often, but it’s worth waiting for. Here’s a small collection of close up lightning videos to get your primitive juices flowing.



Lightning occurs globally about once every 40-50 seconds, that’s about 1.4 billion times a year. About 70% of this lightning occurs over the tropics, which is why us folks in the UK don’t really get our fair share.

This next one is from Darwin, Australia:



The next clip is pretty fascinating, so fascinating you’ll have to watch it twice to pick up all of the action. Lightning hits a plane on the ground, it’s pretty hard to see, but it hits the tail so focus your attention on there.

See it? OK, now, the second time you watch it, look at the nose of the plane light up and apparently throw a manhole cover. That’s some impressive power. The ground crew were right to leg it I think.



For those that plan to emigrate to the stormiest region on earth, you may want to try a small village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo called Kifuka. Kifuka lies nearlly 1,000 m above sea level and gets around 158 strikes per square Km per year. Or, if you can’t deal with the altitude, you could try Catatumbo in Venezuela where there are electrical storms virtually every other night of the year!

Lightning never strikes twice in the same place… Well tell that to the people of Catatumbo, or Roy Sullivan who got hit loads of times; or, the Empire State Building for that matter:



Lightning can travel from cloud to ground (CG), from cloud to cloud (CC) or within a single cloud – intra-cloud (IC).

Also, there are a whole host of other types of lightning that are less well known, including sprites and ball lightning. Scientists still haven’t unraveled all of lightning’s mysteries, which is fair enough when you consider how difficult it is to get anywhere near it.

The strike in the next clip happens at about 40s:



If lightning hits a tree, the extreme temperatures involved can vaporize its sap, this causes a steam explosion and bursts the trunk wide open.

As lightning travels through sandy soil, the soil surrounding the plasma channel may melt, forming tubular structures called fulgurites, which are basically natural hollow glass tubes. They’re sometimes called petrified lightning:

Storm Lightning Fulgurite 2 Storm Lightning Fulgurite on beach Storm Lightning Fulgurite

The temperature of lightning is usually given as somewhere over 30,000 degrees Celsius (55,000 degrees Fahrenheit). To put that into perspective a little, that’s five times as hot as the sun. Not that that really helps you put it in perspective really, it’s not like you’ve touched the sun before is it? How about if we say it’s 300 X hotter than boiling water? Does that help?

Average lightning strikes are a few miles long, but only a few cm wide, they just look wider because they’re so darned bright. Here’s a plane getting zapped:






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