‘Gigantic Jet’ Lightning; Watch Massive 55-Mile High Storm Strike [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on February 27, 2013 9:58 AM EST

gigantic jet lightning
This strike was nearly 55 miles high. (Photo: YouTube)

A "Gigantic Jet" lightning is a rarely seen weather phenomenon that occurs when a massive burst of lightning jumps from a thundercloud into the upper atmosphere. A record-setting strike of "gigantic jet" lightning was seen in China in 2010, and Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing recently released their report on the unique weather event. Researchers got a good look at the storm using a variety of tools, including Doppler radar data and weather pictures in the infrared band of radiation. The gigantic jet peaked at about 55 miles above the ground, far above the cloud tops that were measured with Doppler radar at an altitude of 11 miles. Several photos of the "gigantic jet" lightning were recorded and compiled in the following video:

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Amateur video of the strike has also surfaced online, although it is unclear from the video if it is of the "gigantic jet" lightning strike or just footage from the storm that spawned it.

Researchers began investigating the phenomenon of the "gigantic jet" lightning in 2001, when scientists discovered gigantic jets of lightning arcing up from clouds in the lowest portion of the atmosphere, the troposphere, to the ionosphere. Meteorologists are shifting their focus from what causes "gigantic jet" lightning to more practical applications, such as the potential threat it poses to air and space travel.

"People wonder if these gigantic jets might threaten spacecraft, aircraft and passengers," researcher Gaopeng Lu of Duke University told OurAmazingPlanet.com. "This actually makes the study of gigantic jets and other lightning-related phenomena above active thunderstorms meaningful and of practical concern."

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