WSAV viewer sees red lightning in Savannah

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Viewer tells me tonight that she was driving in this afternoon’s intense thunderstorm when she saw a blood-red lightning flash. She thought lightning was always white or yellow.

Well, that’s not the case.

Lightning comes in a variety of colors. It can almost take any color of the rainbow ranging from red to violet.

There are many theories and explanations for different colors. First, it’s what’s in the air. Humidity, particles… they both play a part.

Temperature also affects what we see. Bolts range from 18,000 to 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, an ordinary white lightning bolt can stretch up to 6 miles from the cloud and down to the ground. But a red lightning bolt could reach as far as 30 miles!!

The colors can provide insight into what to expect during a thunderstorm:

Blue lightning is an indication of a high-precipitation with hail. It is likely acquired the blue hue from light scattering property of tiny atmospheric particles which are also responsible for reflecting the radiations from the sun resulting in the blue sky.

Purple or lilac-tinted lightning bolt is often caused by high atmospheric humidity; which means the thunderstorm is accompanied by high-precipitation.

Yellow lightning is uncommon; however, they tend to be cooler than the blue, lilac and white. They’re caused to due to a high concentration of dust in the air. And is an indication of a dry thunderstorm with low-precipitation.

White lightning is the hottest, and literally, all bolts radiate white color. They’re an indication of a low concentration of moisture and dust in the air.

One more thing… red lightning can develop way up high in the storm. These are known as sprites.

It’s an electrical discharge that appears as a burst of red light above the clouds during a thunderstorm. Since this weather phenomenon is very short-lived, with sprites flashing for a few milliseconds, not to mention that this is not visible from the ground most of the time, red lightning is very difficult to observe and even more challenging to photograph. They pretty much live up to the name given to them, inspired by the fantasy realm’s playful air spirits.

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