Almost as elusive as the mythological creatures who share their name, lighting sprites are rarely seen and even more rarely photographed. But as hurricane Matthew was busy growing into a Category 5 just north of Colombia, the system bore some extra fireworks – upper atmospheric lightning strikes, also known as lightning sprites.
As described by weather.com, far above Matthew's devastating winds and gargantuan waves, “Lightning was electrifying the skies for hundreds of miles around Matthew's eyewall and eastern feederbands.”
But along with the ol’ forks that descend from the heavens as if Zeus were having a tantrum, there were the sprites unleashed above the high thunderstorm cloud tops.
The American Meteorological Society defines sprites as usually weak bursts of energy that are released directly over an active thunderstorm cloud with cloud-to-ground lightning below.
They are usually red in color, but can tend towards blue or other hues. And as weather.com notes, they can extend their impish selves some 55 miles into the atmosphere.
But with their extraordinary height and brevity – they live for only a few milliseconds – they are very hard to see and even more difficult to photograph, making them a rarity for mere mortals like us to see.
The sprites shown above and in the video below were doing their impish dance high above hurricane Matthew near Aruba and Colombia, as seen from 400 miles away in Puerto Rico. They are phenomenal – and in reminding us of the wrath and fury of Mother Nature, they are nothing short of magic.
Weather.com reports on the sprites in the video below.