How hazardous is horizontal lightning?


Lightning in thunderous skies is quite a usual phenomenon for everyone. Each of us has at least once in our lives seen the process a discharge being generated in a storm cloud that rapidly falls to the ground. Do you know that there are several varieties of lightning? Apart from the flashes that are usual to us and strike upwards, a discharge may also occur among clouds or inside a cloud.

Lightning that moves from cloud to cloud is referred to as horizontal. That is an extraordinary sight which is quite rare. Horizontal lightning is regarded as the most powerful and dangerous in their kind, but why?


Horizontal lightning.jpg
Horizontal lightning, Taunton (England)


A strike of horizontal lightning into the wing of an aircraft.jpg
A strike of horizontal lightning into the wing of an aircraft, Paris (France)


First of all, the hazard lies in their length. Such lightning is able to travel considerable distances until a negatively charged cloud meets a positively charged one. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the longest lightning was 321000 meters horizontally.

Secondly, the horizontal discharge may directly strike an aircraft flying in the sky. As is well-known, the discharge energy may reach 1 to 1000 GW, so an aircraft cannot get by without lightning protection.

Thirdly, the lightning passage trajectory is accompanied by changes in the electrical and magnetic fields. Electromagnetic interference from lightning is the most hazardous type of lightning exposure for the electric circuits in the aircraft's devices. Therefore, it is mandatory to use special protective means here.


An incredible video of horizontal lightning which a resident of Florida was lucky to shoot during a thunderstorm in August 2016.


Horizontal lightning poses a hazard for those who are in the skies. To know how the lightning protection of aircrafts is ensured, read the article by Professor Eduard Meerovich Bazelyan.


See also:

Related Articles: