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Name: Kathy
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Question:
Is it possible for lightning to strike in the shape of a circle? A continuous loop not touching earth or cloud, just suspended in the sky?


Replies:
Kathy,

I have seen lightning make at least half circles in the sky, but usually where it is visible at the bottom of a cloud. Certainly it is possible for lightning to emanate from one part of a thunderstorm cloud and turn around and enter another part of the cloud where the charge is the opposite sign; that could possibly occur at approximately the same height so as to make it look like a circle of lightning. However, if what you saw did not emanate from and enter a cloud, it probably was not lightning, as lightning energy flows from one charge center in a thunderstorm to another charge center in that thunderstorm or a nearby storm, or strikes the ground, or strikes an elevated object such as a tall building.

David R. Cook
Meteorologist
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory


There is a form of lightning (ball lightning). The mechanism of its formation is not well understood. The best reference, on this and other forms of lightning discharges I have found, is "THE LIGHTNING DISCHARGE" by Martin A. Ulman.

The bottom line is that "lightning" is not well understood.

Vince Calder


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