Lightning strikes near space shuttle Endeavour on the pad. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Lightning's connection to tropical storms and hurricane intensification has eluded researchers for years, but NASA scientists hope to answer some of these puzzling questions. (NASA)
› Link: "Back to School" Chat Series Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge "spark" accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms. From this discharge of atmospheric electricity, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 140,000 miles per hour, and can reach temperatures approaching 54,000 Fahrenheit, hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, chat experts Dr. Richard Blakeslee, atmospheric research scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. and thunderstorm physicist Dr. Monte Bateman of Universities Space Research Association answered your questions via live Web chat.
› Chat Transcript (PDF, 334 Kb)
Also, as promised during the chat, Monte Bateman has provided some added "lightning books" resources for those who with to read more about lightning:
For lay people:
"All About Lightning," by Uman, Dover Publications, 1986.
For technical/science people:
"The Lightning Discharge," by Uman, Academic Press, 1987.
"Lightning," by Rakov and Uman, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003.
A more general book about thunderstorms and atmospheric electricity:
"The Electrical Nature of Storms," by MacGorman and Rust, Oxford Univ. Press, 1998.
Bios: Chat Experts Dr. Richard Blakeslee and Dr. Monte Bateman
More About the Lightning Chat
So what can you learn from a lightning chat? Find out who gets the most lightning; why there are different types of lightning; how we can use lightning to predict severe weather; what are the current "hot topics" in research; and what new technology and measurement systems are being developed to push the frontiers of our knowledge. You can also learn about lightning safety, the global distribution and frequency of lightning occurrence, as well as some of its physical characteristics; the relationship of lightning to severe storms and weather - e.g., lightning rate changes may serve as a "pre-cursor" or advanced indicator to later severe weather at the ground such as tornadoes; and other lightning research topics such as lightning-hurricane relationships and terrestrial gamma-ray bursts.