How powerful is the lightning bolt on Jupiter

Atmospheric flashlight

Spectacular light effect: Here you can see a huge thundercloud, in which there is currently violent lightning. Thanks to the view from orbit, this snapshot of an ISS astronaut clearly shows the mighty, anvil-shaped head of the thundercloud. These clouds rise up to the upper edge of the troposphere and can therefore build up enormous differences in charge in their interior.

Lightning is one of the most spectacular phenomena in our weather. With up to a billion volts, the glaring discharges jump between thunderclouds or between clouds and the surface of the earth. The air heats up to 30,000 degrees and even antimatter and gamma rays can arise.

1.5 billion lightning bolts a year

Lightning flashes around 50 times a second in the entire earth's atmosphere - this adds up to 1.5 billion lightning bolts a year. However, where and when the next discharge will occur is something scientists have so far only been able to predict to a limited extent. This is usually only possible with the help of radar measurements and satellite support and only when a thunderstorm has already started and is approaching.

At least we know that thunderstorms and thus the lightning-prone cloud towers form particularly often in certain places. The foothills of the Alps around Garmisch-Partenkirchen are one of these hotspots of thunder and lightning in Germany. From a global perspective, it is the most common lightning over Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. More than 233 lightning strikes per year and square kilometer were registered there. The reason for this is a V-shaped mountain formation that promotes the formation of thunderclouds over the lake.

Snapshot from orbit

In order to better understand why and when there is lightning, researchers are also observing thunderstorms from Earth orbit. Some satellites have their own flash sensors on board that map the flashes of light.

But sometimes an astronaut on board the International Space Station ISS also succeeds in photographing a thunderstorm - like here. An ISS crew member took this picture when the space station was flying over Bolivia. The enormous, anvil-shaped enlarged head of a large thundercloud, in which there is violent lightning, is clearly visible.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

May 26, 2020

- Nadja Podbregar