Watching lightning jets hit the ionosphere

From Spaceweather.com: You know what comes out of the bottom of a thunder storm–lightning. But do you know what comes out of the top? On Sept. 28th at 7:01 am EDT, Joel Gonzalez photographed a gigantic jet shooting up from a storm near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Click on the image to watch the action–and turn up the volume for a crackling soundtrack:

Gigantic jets are lightning-like discharges that spring from the top of thunderstorms, reaching all the way from the thunderhead to the ionosphere 50+ miles overhead. They’re enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare. The first one was discovered in 2001 by Dr. Victor Pasko in Puerto Rico. Since then only a few dozen have been recorded, almost always over open ocean.

“This storm was just north of the Kennedy Space Center over the Atlantic,” notes Gonzalez. “It was daylight already when the jet decided to fire off! Because of this, a lot of detail was lost, but if you watch the movie closely you can see hints of streamers reaching up to the ionosphere.”

Because they connect thunderstorms directly to the ionosphere, gigantic jets play some role in the global flow of electricity around our planet, but how big is that role? No one knows. Investigations of gigantic jets are considered cutting-edge.

Amateur astronomers, you can contribute to this research. Check your local weather radar map for storms just over the horizon, point your meteor cameras in that direction, and click. Gigantic jets may not be as rare as we think.

more images: from Tom King of Watauga, Texas;

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If you want to be alerted for thunderstorms in your area reaching a certain intensity, see this cool program.

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41 Responses to Watching lightning jets hit the ionosphere

  1. solrey says:

    Gigantic jets might be relatively rare, however they are just one category of several Transient Luminous Events (Red Sprites, Blue Jets, Elves, Blue Starters, Upward Lightning, Sprite Halos, Trolls, Gnomes, Pixies & Gigantic Jets)

    Pilots had been reporting TLE’s for decades but scientists didn’t believe them. Now TLE’s are a new special category of research.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/14143933/Upper-Atmospheric-Lightning-Red-Sprites-Blue-Jets-and-Elves

    TLEs have been captured by a variety of optical recording systems, with the total number of recorded events currently (early 2009) estimated at many tens-of-thousands. The global rate of TLE occurrence has been estimated from satellite (FORMOSAT-2) observations to be several million events per year.

    Because they connect thunderstorms directly to the ionosphere, gigantic jets play some role in the global flow of electricity around our planet, but how big is that role?

    With millions of TLE’s per year (gigantic jets are just one type) TLE’s likely play a significant role in the global electric circuit.

    Cheers,
    Tim Erney

  2. Freddy says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but do these jets definitely represent energy flowing _upwards_ ?

  3. Bob Shapiro says:

    I’ve looked closely… several times… but I see nothing at the top. What should I be looking for?

  4. tal says:

    Check out the various postings on the subject of red sprites and blue jets at

    http://www.thunderbolts.info/home.htm

    Here’s an example from 2006:

    “The pilots who saw it wouldn’t talk about it for fear of ridicule or worse. The pilots whose airplanes were hit by it wouldn’t talk about it because they were dead. Then in the early 1990s investigators began to take the rumors seriously and to look for evidence of lightning above the clouds.

    Right away they found images on archived satellite pictures, and they recorded hundreds of flashes above distant storms. Giant neon-light-like haloes would appear 85 kilometers above storms. The glows would propagate downward to form red balloons of interlaced filaments. The currents would squeeze into 30-meter-wide channels scattered over areas of a hundred square kilometers and disappear into the clouds. The glows were so diffuse that they seemed hardly a danger to airplanes. The investigators named them “sprites”.

    The investigators soon discovered another form of lightning above the clouds. “Blue jets” would spout upwards from storms as much as 15 kilometers toward space. Several giant jets shot up to 80 kilometers. The jets were more compact than the sprites.”
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060322sprite.htm

  5. vukcevic says:

    In the equatorial regions there is a pair of ionosphere plasma bands associated with strong thunderstorm activity, possibly linked to the ENSO.
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/LFC20.htm

  6. It was at the end of June about 1992 or 1993, when I was picking up freshly-baled hay after midnight, under a clear sky, that I saw an Elves briefly illuminate the sky every time there was a heavy lightning discharge in a thunderstorm about 80 or so miles to the west.

    The Wikipedia entry for Elves states: “Their color was a puzzle for some time, but is now believed to be a red hue.” I am not colour blind, and there is no doubt in my mind that the colour of the Elves was without a doubt purple.

    I had never before seen Elves and had not know then what they were. I never again saw them since then, but then I never again had to pick up hay bales at in the dark at night while a thunderstorm was going on in the vicinity.

    The sight of the Elves was so impressive that I stopped the tractor and bale wagon, turned off the lights and just kept watching for them to occur, which they did time and again.

  7. Ralph says:

    Quote from Tal’s .. Thunderbolts.com
    The pilots who were hit by it were dead…….

    Unlikely. I have been hit by lightning a dozen times in commercial aircraft, and the worst we had was a small burn mark and a static wick missing.

    Aluminium aircraft conduct electricity very well, and act like a Faraday cage, protecting all within. I am presuming that new composite aircraft like the new B787 have a suitable conducting net in with the composites to do likewise.

    .

  8. Patrick Davis says:

    I am sorry to burst your bubble, but this is a direct result of PHU-UK, Patio Heater Usage-UK. It kills planets, haven’t you heard?

  9. solrey says:

    Freddy says:
    October 2, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Forgive my ignorance, but do these jets definitely represent energy flowing _upwards_ ?

    From the three page paper linked in the article:

    Thus, these gigantic jets originated at the top of the convective core,
    and reached an elevation of 90 km in the ionosphere.

    The propagation velocities of the leading jets reported here are an order of magnitude higher than those of classical blue jets and Pasko’s jet, but are comparable to the velocities of stepped leaders in conventional cloud-to-ground lightning (CG)

    At this stage, each gigantic jet appears to be a hybrid of sprite and blue jet, with its upper section, lower section, and apparent emerging point brightening concurrently. This feature is similar to the return stroke in a CG

    At this stage, an electric path was set up between thundercloud and ionosphere, and current flowed through this conducting channel from the ionosphere toward the thundercloud.

    The discharge current flows both upwards and downwards, like cloud to ground lightning with leader and return strokes.

    Interesting that these gigantic jets, which seem to be a hybrid of other TLE’s, occur over the center of convection of oceanic storms and aren’t connected to CG lightning. Probably related to the conductivity of the oceans.

    cheers

  10. solrey says:

    Ralph says:
    October 2, 2010 at 9:53 am

    The pilots who were hit by it were dead…….
    Unlikely. I have been hit by lightning a dozen times in commercial aircraft, and the worst we had was a small burn mark and a static wick missing.

    I’m an A&P and also used to fly in the long ago. You were hit by cloud to ground type lightning. Did you even read the thunderbolts article? They’re talking about TLE’s and the fact that they are much more powerful than typical CG lightning which you encountered. They propose that certain plane crashes might have been the result of being hit by a more powerful TLE. The idea is that aircraft are designed to survive CG type lightning, but wouldn’t survive an encounter with a discharge orders of magnitude stronger so we should learn more about TLE’s and their effects on aircraft. Sounds like a good idea to me.

  11. INGSOC says:

    “They’re enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare.”

    Sounds like one of my wife’s fleeting good moods.

  12. Kevin says:

    I’m sorry guys, this was my fault. I left my Flash Gordon ray gun out on the lawn, and my dog stepped on the trigger. Next time I’ll remember to take the power cells out when not in use. Shoot. He was a good dog.

  13. Hey Skipper says:

    I’m an A&P and also used to fly in the long ago. You were hit by cloud to ground type lightning. Did you even read the thunderbolts article? They’re talking about TLE’s and the fact that they are much more powerful than typical CG lightning which you encountered.

    I’m an airline pilot.

    Pilots are as welcoming of thunderstorms as most people are of an ebola infection. Therefore, essentially all lightning strikes on aircraft are cloud-cloud, triggered by the aircraft itself.

    Moreover, the kind of thunderstorms capable of generating TLEs have tops well above the performance envelope of anything other than a U2; they couldn’t bring down an airplane, since there couldn’t be any there to begin with.

  14. Enneagram says:

    We are a little planet, however we have our Corona under contsruction .-)
    The unity of electromagnetic phenomena:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/38598073/Unified-Field

  15. Freddy says:

    Solrey, thank you, but that doesn’t answer my question (or, if it does, then I am too thick to see it, for which, my apologies).

    Is the net result of one of these gigantic jets (and elves and sprites and all the rest) that energy moves from the top of the thundercloud _up_ to the ionosphere, or from the ionosphere _down_ to the cloud ?

    Anyone ?

  16. John Day says:

    >> The pilots who were hit by it were dead ….
    > Unlikely. I have been hit by lightning a dozen times in commercial aircraft…

    Yes, the aircraft serves as a Faraday cage, protecting the occupants from the external electric fields induced by lightning.

    But, it is probably not as well known that lightning also emits x-rays and gamma-rays.

    X-rays probably are generated during every lightning event. This radiation is absorbed by the atomsphere and poses no hazard at long ranges.

    Terrestrial gammay-ray flashes (TGF’s) are very rare phenomena, with energies up to 20MEV.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrestrial_gamma-ray_flash

    I have heard (from an expert in this area) that very close exposure to one of these TGF events might result radiation dosage high enough to cause mild radiation sickness. But, again, it’s a very rare phenomenon. Gamma rays are also readily absorbed by the atmosphere and pose no risk at long range.

  17. Three thousand years ago the Chinese scholars who put together the book “The I Ching” in which they speak of red and blue dragons in the sky, throughout the book are references to the importance of these dragons in weather related effects.

    They speak of the annual resting of the electrical energy in the Earth for the winter, the coming of spring with the resumption of the forces of lightning, of monsoons driving flocks of dragons above them, with the observation of the more and varied forms of these light flashes above stronger storms viewed from the high mountain retreats of the Taoist monks. Then building of tension in the air as the moisture and clouds come, but no rain falls until the dragons come, some times weeks later.

    When CG lightning flashes out ahead of the edge of the rain it looks bluish white, the deeper into the rain and the heavier the rain fall rate, the more yellow to red shifted the CG lightning appears, so as seen across very heavy rain bands between the lightning and the observer deep red lightning is more dominate.

    Of this several passages talk about the more depth of color shift and rapid intensity of the display being a very good indicator of local flooding and storm damage hundreds of miles away down in the plains. Passages speak of the occurrence of red and blue dragons fighting in the sky above the storms as being indicative of a fore bearer of news of much damage and loss of life as a result of the storm being watched.

    Mention is made several times that one who could understand how the electrical energy comes out of the earth in the spring and when it shows up in intense storms could see the flow or the Tao, and could rule the world [their indication being that helpful advice in time of need, is the role of a good and just ruler] as if sitting on his hand.

    We have satellite photos of the storm systems as they move across the globe, we could look at these as moving animations with an eye to watching the lunar declinational and phase related tidal movements come and go in their 27.32 day periods, in steps of the 27.32 day long repeating cycles displayed on separate tiles or panels of photos laid four across and three rows high, to watch the progression of global meridional flows, to better understand how they affect the movement of the Rossby waves and resultant jet streams positions, to better forecast the interactive occurrence of long term cycles such as the, QBO, PDO, el nino, and madden Julian patterns.

  18. Dennis Wingo says:

    Anthony

    You are incorrect on the lineage of these pictures. I was working directly with the folks at the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC) in the 1990’s and there were many pictures of these Sprites (as this particular) and other vertical lightning phenomenon.

    Here is the link from the NASA research.

    http://www.electricianeducation.com/interesting/sprite_lightning.htm

    REPLY:
    Wasn’t me, this is a NASA story – Anthony

  19. solrey says:

    Freddy, here’s the link to the paper. The last paragraph might answer your question, or lead to about a dozen more…;)
    http://sprite.phys.ncku.edu.tw/new/news/0626_presss/nature01759_r.pdf

    Hey Skipper.

    Moreover, the kind of thunderstorms capable of generating TLEs have tops well above the performance envelope of anything other than a U2; they couldn’t bring down an airplane, since there couldn’t be any there to begin with.

    Blue jets differ from sprites in that they project from the top of the cumulonimbus above a thunderstorm, typically in a narrow cone, to the lowest levels of the ionosphere 40 to 50 km (25 to 30 miles) above the earth.”

    The cumulonimbus tops of severe storms often exceed the typical cruising altitude for commercial aircraft at 35,000′, but the tops of moderate storms could be as low as 25,000′ – 30,000′ making commercial aircraft that attempt to fly over them vulnerable to blue jets. Ever flown over a storm instead of around it?

    We’ve only been studying TLE’s for a little over a decade so to say that there’s no way they could be a threat to aircraft is the kind of hubris that often leads to disaster. Just sayin’. :)

    cheers

  20. Zeke the Sneak says:

    “Effectively the discharges extend to space. And from there beyond to the magnetosphere, which then begs the question ‘Where is this electric current going to or coming from?’ and the answer is it’s coming from the solar circuit.”

    “All planets have this connection to the solar circuit, which means that they are accepting electrical charge from the sun. It was imagined initially that these strange lightnings above storms were coming from the storm below. But the evidence is all in favor of the fact that the electrical energy is already sitting up there in the ionosphere waiting to get to earth. And it just comes down through those various elves, gnomes, the sprites – all of these whimsical names given to things that are not understood. Now once the charge gets to the thundercloud,

    the electricity is distributed in the thundercloud, and then it is discharged to the ground through the normal lightning bolts. Or through tornadoes. Tornadoes are a slow electric vortex.”

    ~Wal Thornhill
    interview with Peter Jupp

  21. pwl says:

    One of the most beautiful things in nature that I’ve ever seen was a cloud over Lake Ontario near the shore line on an otherwise blue sky day; the cloud was having in internal lightening storm lighting it up with discharges clearly visible. The colors were astounding covering a wide range of hues and intensities from yellow, blue, white. There was some thunder but it was not that loud, maybe two or three seconds after. That most of the sky was clear blue was astounding. That I’ve never seen such a thing before or since was astounding. I watched it for five minutes. Didn’t have a camera though. It was, for lack of a better saying, an awesome event. A giant ball of moisture and energy just hanging there in the sky putting on a light show.

  22. Freddy says:
    October 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm
    ———-Just my opinion; the interaction of the troposphere with the ionosphere seems to be what generates these phenomenon I think are conductive pathways for currents from the solar wind, earth’s magnetosphere, Van Allen belts, and upper ionosphere, grounding to the earth’s surface, and that when they become intense enough become briefly visiable, any slow leakage does not show up except in the radio spectrum as spherics, howlers, and other effects produced by the polar auroras that are well know noises to ham radio operators. More info from web searches but it appears the stock photo of sprites is used on all!? ;

    http://www.albany.edu/faculty/rgk/atm101/sprite.htm

    http://www.sky-fire.tv/index.cgi/spritesbluejetselves.html

    http://elf.gi.alaska.edu/

  23. John Day says:

    > You are incorrect on the lineage of these pictures. I was working directly with the
    > folks at the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC) in the 1990′s and there were
    > many pictures of these Sprites (as this particular) and other vertical lightning
    > phenomenon.

    The lineage is correct. What Joel photographed was a ‘jet’ not a ‘sprite’. Joel is a very accomplished amateur scientist (as you can see for yourself from his website: http://www.backyardastronomy.net

    In his own words:
    “This morning I was able to capture a Gigantic Jet after a year of hunting. It
    occurred at around 7:00 a.m. local time so the Sun was already coming up.
    Therefore a lot of detail was lost. My ELF receiver is on the left channel and
    VLF receiver on the right channel. There seems to be elf/vlf activity associated”
    with this jet. No obvious flashes from within the cloud can be seen so that’s
    interesting. The camera was pointed 20deg Northeast from my location”

    The “left/right” channel references are to the audio on the media clip, which sounds like static (spherics)
    Here’s the best shot of the jet, in the upper part of the photo:

  24. Freddy says:

    Solrey, I’ve already read it, and it didn’t answer my question, which is why I asked it here. I’m guessing that you can’t answer it, either ?

    I’ve asked it before over at Steve’s, and no-one has ever given a definite answer. I was hoping there might be some more physical science-oriented types here who might be able to do so. It seems kindof a basic question, and it ought to be answerable.

    Anyone ? With jets/sprites/elves, is energy going up or down ?

  25. Dennis Wingo says:

    REPLY: Wasn’t me, this is a NASA story – Anthony

    Ah, another case of the left hand center not knowing what the right hand center had discovered decades ago.

    :(

  26. John Day says:

    > Anyone ? With jets/sprites/elves, is energy going up or down ?

    I’m not a TLE expert, but if it’s like regular lightning, current flows both ways, in a series of strokes, in the plasma channel generated by the leading stroke. Also confusing is the EE convention that current flows from + to – charge, so opposite from flow of electrons. Most of the literature implies that jets emanate from the tops of thunderclouds into the lower ionospher (mesosphere).

  27. John Day says:

    > REPLY: Wasn’t me, this is a NASA story – Anthony

    Anthony, it’s not a NASA story. The photo was taken in Joel’s backyard, 85 miles SE of the Space Center. (Look at the byline at the bottom of the movie)

    REPLY: What part of From Spaceweather.com plus the link, did you miss at the very beginning of the story? It’s on the front page of Spaceweather.com a NASA site, just scroll down – Anthony

  28. John Day says:

    Sorry, I thought you meant credit for taking a picture of a blue jet. :-]

  29. Steve says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find this on a continuum with flares, just as there appears to my eye to be a relationship between ocean currents, jet streams, gas giant cloud belts and a similar pattern on the Sun. One being fluid dynamics, the other being electrodynamics. Beyond that I do not venture.

  30. Dennis Wingo says:

    The lineage is correct. What Joel photographed was a ‘jet’ not a ‘sprite’. Joel is a very accomplished amateur scientist (as you can see for yourself from his website: http://www.backyardastronomy.net

    These were first photographed as part of a NASA Phase II SBIR study in the early 1990’s. I know the NASA PI on this (Otha H. Vaughn), and it was taken up by the solar/terrestrial physics branch at Marshall. At least two Shuttle flights had cameras that specifically filmed many of the variances and actually developed the taxonomy for what the different forms of the discharges were.

  31. Don V says:

    Freddy says: Is the net result . . . that energy moves from the top of the thundercloud _up_ to the ionosphere, or from the ionosphere _down_ to the cloud?

    I would think that the answer to your question is, “Neither.” All the energy during one of these strikes isn’t really moving anywhere. It is just potential energy being converted into kinetic as a result of the break down of air being exceeded over long great distances.
    Energy isn’t moving the way convective transport of energy in warm water vapor transports energy up into a cloud. Instead, think of a cloud system as a very large plate on a huge capacitor that slowly accumulates a build up of charge from either the ground or oppositely charged gases up in the ionosphere. The insulator that separates this charged plate from either “ground” or “opposite charges” is the air that separates that charged plate from either the ionosphere or the ground. As wind moves particles and droplets of water around in the cloud system, electrons are stripped off of their surface just like in a huge VanDeGraff generator. Follow the evidence from what you see. Visible light is given off when the electric potential on the capacitor plate reaches the break-down potential of air, and a conducting path is created by the resulting plasma. As soon as a conducting path is created, a VERY large current of ions are free to move at substantial velocities over very great distances to neutralize the huge potential that has built up. This sudden release of the potential energy that has accumulated in the cloud system results in an explosion of very hot, very kinetic plasma that expands at a velocity exceeding the speed of sound -creating a sonic boom – and a very bright flash of light. Potential energy is rapidly converted to heat energy, light energy, and a very loud sound, and the energy is dissipated into the atmosphere as kinetic energy – resulting LOTS of heat, very bright light, and an explosive release of rapidly expanding gases all along the path of the lightning jet. Energy doesn’t really flow anywhere, it is just dissipated into the atmosphere along the path of the “lightning” as both extreme heat, a very brief burst of radiation, and a sudden clap of thunder. This dissipation of energy radiates out in all directions. If one could tap the current that flows along that plasma channel into say an electrical grid, it would seem that a huge energy source in the cloud transferred a substantial amount of potential energy downward but just as much current of the opposite charge flows upwards during a lighting strike! Net “flow” of energy – not much up, down or sideways.

  32. Don V says:
    October 3, 2010 at 1:13 am
    ———–Reply;
    This is the problem with the opinion that there is little net energy involved in plasma/electromagnetic interactions.

    The power dissipated by the release of the static voltage potential is released across the full bandwidth from DC,heat, full spectrum radio production to IR through EUV light frequencies, up to and including xrays and gama rays in some events.

    Then instead of deriving the total power dissipated across the whole bandwidth, some small sub set is described as being of “little net effect”. Where the whole full spectrum total power dissipated is in the tera watts in hundredths of seconds.

    Then the argument given is that “there is not enough power to have an effect”. This straw man argument is very common by a couple of posters on here.

  33. 899 says:

    INGSOC says:
    October 2, 2010 at 10:56 am
    “They’re enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare.”

    Sounds like one of my wife’s fleeting good moods.

    You need to take her out to the ‘off-the-leash’ park a bit more, and let her run those bad emotions out of her system.

    :o)

    Just kidding!!!

  34. John Day says:

    > These were first photographed as part of a NASA Phase II SBIR study
    > in the early 1990′s.

    Dennis, yes they’ve been photgraphed before, that wasn’t the point. Jets are seldom seen or photographed. Joel is an accomplished amateur astronomer, who also studies earth science. He set up a camera and waited a year to get this picture. He also captured the extremely-low frequency (ELF,300hz-3khz) and very-low frequency (VLF, 3khz-30khz) signatures of this flash, which you can hear as ‘audio’ in the movie background. Astronomy is still one of the few areas of science where amateurs can make valuble observations and contributions.

  35. Don V says:

    Richard Holle says: This is the problem with the opinion that there is little net energy involved in plasma/electromagnetic interactions. . . . . Then the argument given is that “there is not enough power to have an effect”. This straw man argument is very common by a couple of posters on here.

    Reply:
    In my post, I did not argue that “there was little net energy”, or that “there is not enought power to have an effect”. On the contrary, I made the point that a significant amount of potential energy that is accumulated in the form of electrostatic charge is converted to extremely high kinetic energy during a lightning strike! My post went on to address the question about the “movement” of energy. Where is energy coming from and where is moving to. During one of these lightning strikes, is energy coming from the ionosphere and is it being transmitted to the top of a cloud? Heating it up? or is heat energy that has been brought up from the ocean in the form of hot air and water vapor transmitting a portion of that energy out to the ionosphere during one of these lightning strikes?
    I reasoned that, if any “movement” of energy occurs at all, it is from both the ionosphere and the top of the cloud towards the “plasma tube” in which the huge amount of kinetic energy is eventually dissipated in that very brief burst. I would think that the air along the plasma path of the strike is where the energy moves “to”. The resulting extreme heat, and broad spectrum flash of light dissipates away from that plasma “channel” in all directions at both the speed of light (electromagnetic pulse) and the speed of sound (thunder clap). Because the “plasma tube” exists all along the path of dissipation, I reasoned that there is no net “movement” of energy from cloud to ionosphere, or from ionosphere to cloud. Could you please point out where is my reasoning is at fault?
    Now that I have had time to think further, I believe that the broad spectrum electromagnetic pulse that radiates out in all directions has a very large portion of its energy pass right through the ionosphere and out into space. The only portion that is retained is that portion of the spectrum that matches the absorbance bands of the gases and ions that make up the ionosphere, that is also actually absorbed by those gas molecules. The portion that radiates down towards the cloud has a small portion of it absorbed by the gases in the cloud (especially water vapor) and whatever passes through the cloud will ultimately get absorbed or reflected off the ocean. The higher albedo from the top surface of the clouds also suggests that a portion of the light that is initally directed towards the cloud will be back scattered. I can’t say what a radiative energy balance from an intense light source between a cloud and the ionosphere dictates, but I imagine it would be similar to the energy balance of radiation coming from the sun.

  36. Dennis Wingo says:

    He also captured the extremely-low frequency (ELF,300hz-3khz) and very-low frequency (VLF, 3khz-30khz) signatures of this flash, which you can hear as ‘audio’ in the movie background. Astronomy is still one of the few areas of science where amateurs can make valuble observations and contributions.

    Yep, I know, I built one of these sensors in 1991 for MSFC and for my school the university of Alabama in Huntsville. A version of one of these sensors later flew on the Shuttle. I am not denigrating his contribution, only pointing out that any claim that these were first captured in the year 2001 is not correct.

  37. Zeke the Sneak says:

    899 says:
    October 3, 2010 at 3:27 am
    INGSOC says:
    October 2, 2010 at 10:56 am
    “They’re enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare.”
    Sounds like one of my wife’s fleeting good moods.

    You need to take her out to the ‘off-the-leash’ park a bit more, and let her run those bad emotions out of her system.

    She needs Mad Money, bro.

  38. John Day says:

    > I am not denigrating his contribution, only pointing out that any claim that these were
    > first captured in the year 2001 is not correct.

    Dennis,
    Actually, the jet that Joel photographed was of the “Gigantic” variety (GJ), which _were_ first discovered in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in 2001, a much larger version of the blue jet. I think you were referring to the ‘classic’ sprites and jets.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper-atmospheric_lightning#Gigantic_jets

    I’m hearing some feedback that this morning’s photo may be the first ever to capture an entire GJ from cloudtop up in one image. This is being verified by some experts.

  39. Probably too late to be read but never mind.

    This taught me a whole lot of new science re. the atmosphere. I finally understand the temperature pattern and the fourfold classification:
    * troposphere where higher=cooler therefore unstable, tropos; then
    * stable stratosphere where higher=warmer, up from the tropopause boundary where cumulus clouds bang their heads and turn into nimbus clouds; then
    * unstable mesosphere where higher=cooler (noctilucent clouds here); then
    * stable thermosphere where higher=warmer.

    The inversion pattern evident in the stratosphere-mesosphere is ALL caused by the ozone production and absorption of higher frequency rays, clearly a highly dynamic pattern, hence human effects are likely to be very low compared to natural cycles.

    From the mesosphere and thermosphere up the atmosphere is ionized plasma due to cosmic ray and solar bombardment, and acts as a mirror to radio waves. The thermosphere is stable, hence the possibility of layering in the ionosphere. The mesopause, the boundary between higher stable and lower unstable atmosphere, is lower during the day because of the solar radiation.

    What a magical system for homeostasis and protection of life on earth.

  40. John Day says:

    Lucy,
    Nice recap. There’s a chart here which illustrates what you said:
    http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Atmosphere/mesosphere_temperature.html

    The topmost branches of this GJ reached up to about 90km, which is the top of the mesosphere. And underscores this: The mesosphere is one of the loneliest places in all of the terrestrial spheres, inhabited only rarely by transients (TLE’s, meteors, noctilucent clouds and transient rockets). Too high for aircraft or balloons to fly in; too low for spaceships to orbit in.

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