lightning

Deadly forest fires in Portugal

Sixty-two people have died and more than 54 injured in one of Portugal’s deadliest forest fires. Many of those who lost their life were trapped in cars as they tried to flee the central forested region of Pedrógão Grande, and it is feared the death toll may rise further.

It is thought that the blaze, which is raging in several parts of a mountainous area 200km northeast of Lisbon, may have been sparked by a lightning strike hitting a tree during a rainless thunderstorm on the night of 17th-18th June 2017, following an intense heatwave which saw temperatures exceeding 40degC.

Mysterious lightning

Sprites are more than just mythical creatures — they are an electrical phenomenon that occurs high above active thunderstorms at altitudes above 50km (30 miles).

Sprites are rarely observed, however when they do appear they are a large but faint, reddish-orange flash that is nearly impossible to witness with the naked eye. The phenomenon is best viewed at night and also from a distance of at least 150km away. Despite it being a challenge, sprites are best captured on camera using highly-sensitive equipment, and although difficult, it is not impossible as this image shows.  

Catatumbo ‘Everlasting’ Lightning

It occurs over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo in Venuzuela, South America. Each year, over 1.2 million bolts of lightning are confined to the mouth of the Catatumbo River - the single highest concentration of lightning in the world.

The Catatumbo lightning, whilst not rare or unusual, is a  remarkable feature in that it persists in the same place night after night. Indeed, the reliability of the storms means that they have historically been used as a maritime navigational aid.