Jesse Ferrell

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WOW: Lightning Strike Photo May Show Positive Streamer

August 7, 2010; 7:47 PM ET

I have to admit, I wish I had snapped this pic, but AccuWeather.com Photo Gallery user carloscoria took this incredible photo of lightning striking a nearby tree last night in Roy, Utah. Many people think they have captured a close lightning strike but have been fooled by ghost reflections. Trust me from being within 30 feet of lightning strikes three times in my life: This, my friends, is what a close lightning strike looks like.

Yes, lightning is hitting the tree in front of Carlos in this picture, probably less than 100 feet away. The red "strike" to the left of the tree is a ghost reflection from his camera. But look closely on the left-hand side of the roof of the house to the right (shown at the arrow below). Even more rare than capturing a strike this close on film is photographing a "positive streamer" which Carlos may have done here.

This is an electrical discharge reaching up from objects nearby to a strikes final path (if it connects to a "stepped leader" then the stroke takes that path). It's still possible it is just another ghost reflection (which people also frequently mistake for streamers) - there would be no way to know for sure, but the positioning on the roof is curious enough that I find it plausible. One of the only legitimate photos of a stepped leader is shown on WikiPedia.

P.S.: If you want to see what a lightning strike looks like up close on a video, watch this video on YouTube (warning: profanity!) or this one; most others are simply ghost reflections.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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About This Blog

Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.