WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

I HEARD A MAN TALKING ABOUT DRY LIGHTING. WHAT IS DRY LIGHTING?

Posted July 10, 2007

MIKE MOSS SAYS:      Virginia,     Dry lightning would be a lightning strike to the ground that occurs outside of the rain arrea associated with a thunderstorm. In our part of the country, this would usually be associated with strkes that reach out a little to the side of the main storm cloud, or in some cases, strikes that originate high in the clouds and can reach out many miles away from the parent cell. In either case, the lack of rainfall at the location of the surface strike can enhance the potential for the lightning bolt to cause a fire. It can also make for sort of "eerie" sounding thunder that seems especially loud and reverberating due to the lack of attenuation by raindrops and/or "masking" by the sound of rainfall. Out in western parts of the country, it's also not uncommon to have thunderstorms with elevated cloud bases that occur above a layer of very dry air near the ground, so that all the precipitation that falls from the cloud evaporates before reaching the durface. In these storms, some lightning may reach the surface directly beneath the storm, and still be "dry" in nature. This is a common cause for wildfires in the western U.S.

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