Along with being one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Irma impressed scientists with another weather phenomenon not necessarily associated with similar events.
Irma created an incredible amount of lightning. Using the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, or GEOS-16, NASA scientists were able to see some incredible footage of the hurricane that included hundreds of lightning bolts.
NASA compiled a fascinating video of the storm, which revealed the countless lightning bolts that can be seen moving with the clouds as Irma cruised over the ocean. The video condensed more than 80 hours of observations into less than a minute of footage, and the amount of lightning is astonishing.
Lightning does not generally play a big part in hurricanes, but when it does occur, it is not a good sign. Lightning is an indicator that a storm’s severity is increasing and, of course, becoming more dangerous.
Most of the winds that occur in a hurricane are horizontal, which does not generally create the right atmosphere for lightning.
However, the winds with Irma were vertical, which created a vertical churning, allowing the clouds to generate lightning — and lots of it. Those vertical winds are something of a mystery to scientists, who will no doubt be able to use data compiled from Irma to help them understand hurricanes better.
Talk about incredible.
To see the lightning moving at night is astounding.
Scientist Richard Blakeslee, who was part of the crew that flew above Irma to gather data, said there must be something unusual at work in these kinds of storms to create the right atmosphere for lightning.
There’s no doubt he and others will be using the data collected from Irma to help solve the mystery of lightning in hurricanes, as well as answer other questions.
Any videos of Hurricane Irma barreling over the ocean are captivating because they show us how fierce nature can be, but the lightning in this storm really showed that nature can be truly as unforgiving as it is unpredictable.
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H/T Atlas Obscura