PDA

View Full Version : Lightning: White to orange



Buttercup
2012-Jul-12, 07:30 PM
Two evenings ago we had an energetic thunderstorm. Within the same cloud area was first dazzling white lightning (both in-cloud and to-ground-bolts), and later (maybe 20 minutes) noticeably orange lightning. Then both from same cloud area.

How can both colors of lightning come from so close together, and why would orange later occur?

Thanks for any replies. :-)

Antice
2012-Jul-12, 08:41 PM
The color of lightening is dependant on the atmospheric gases that get ionized. Oxygen is the culprit of the blueish color, while the more reddish version is from ionized nitrogen. the energy of the lightening strike is what decides witch of the atmospheric gases get's ionized the most. this is due to the difference in the energy needed to cause ionization in each particular gas. the colors are probably almost never clean tho. since in general more than one gas should get ionized at each strike.

It is not uncommon to see several colors of lightening in the same thunderstorm. since the energy of each discharge tends to wary a lot.
From personal experience i have seen what can best be described as chain lightening walking along a hillside with sucessive strikes that start off at one edge of the hill as red then going to bright blue and then back down to red/orange again as the chain of strikes starts to wind down at the other end of the hill. This particular hill was known for being a bad place to be in a thunderstorm tho. since it tended to get hit much more than average. probably something about the geology of it. there was old copper mines in it and stuff, so i guess that may have had something to do with it.

dgavin
2012-Jul-13, 01:35 AM
I seem to remember a video that one of those experiments with shooting rockets into lightning storms trailing a wire, managed to make green lightning because of the wire they used got vaporised then ionized and caused a slight color shift.

Ara Pacis
2012-Jul-13, 10:59 PM
The light may have been filtered by dust too.

HenrikOlsen
2012-Jul-13, 11:21 PM
I seem to remember a video that one of those experiments with shooting rockets into lightning storms trailing a wire, managed to make green lightning because of the wire they used got vaporised then ionized and caused a slight color shift.
Copper wire would do that, yes.

Antice
2012-Jul-14, 05:07 AM
The light may have been filtered by dust too.

dust storm lightening often get's its color from the vaporized dust it travels trough. lots of potential colors can be made from this. depending on what substance the dust is mainly composed off. I believe that dust storm lightening is pretty rare tho. altho i have heard that static effects like st-elmos fire is pretty common in those circumstances tho, and do also sometimes get a color change when the air is filled with dust.

the lightening you get from a volcano eruption however seem to always be pretty red in color.

headrush
2012-Jul-14, 01:13 PM
dust storm lightening often get's its color from the vaporized dust it travels trough. lots of potential colors can be made from this. depending on what substance the dust is mainly composed off. I believe that dust storm lightening is pretty rare tho. altho i have heard that static effects like st-elmos fire is pretty common in those circumstances tho, and do also sometimes get a color change when the air is filled with dust.

the lightening you get from a volcano eruption however seem to always be pretty red in color.
Further to that, smoke (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78497&src=iotdrss) may have an influence too.

Probably not related are the recently photographed Red sprites (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=78487&src=iotdrss).