Chris Kridler's Sky Diary: storm chasing, photography and rainy-day tales

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The Storm Seekers Series, novels about storm chasers by Chris Kridler

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storm gallery: July 23 & 25, 2002: triggered lightning

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See a video of triggered lightning!

At Camp Blanding, Florida, the University of Florida has a lightning research facility. There, triggered lightning is used in a variety of experiments. Small rockets are launched from tubes at the top of a tower during a storm, building up positive charge as they zoom upward and attract lightning. A trailing copper-Kevlar wire guides lightning to the ground. The wire is vaporized and return strokes resemble natural lightning enough to be used for research. Images from video.

My visit on July 23 on an assignment for my newspaper produced no storms, so lightning couldn't be triggered. Two days later, a good storm came over the site. This is natural lightning, before triggering began. Image from video. When the negative electric field reaches the right strength, the guys in the launch trailer next to the tower press the fire button. Image from video.

Here's a succession of bolts after the rocket is launched. Note that the first bolt goes below the tower as it vaporizes the wire. The rest are return strokes. Image from video.

Links to 2002 chase reports:

  • May 17-22: A chase to Wyoming is a magnificently windy experience
  • May 23-24: A handful of tornadoes in the Texas panhandle
  • May 26: A festival of gustnadoes in the Oklahoma panhandle
  • May 28-29: Storms lead us on in southwest Texas
  • June 2-3: Horseshoe funnels in Nebraska and a blast of hail in Colorado
  • June 4: A rotating storm, gustnadoes, a pretty supercell and a race against hail
  • July 23 & 25: Triggered lightning at Camp Blanding, Florida

go to the main gallery page | go to storm chasers
go to reports from 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997