Rare red sprites spotted in southern Arizona

For the better half of a decade, I’ve covered the Arizona Monsoon. In that time, I don’t ever recall seeing a photo quite like this one.

RimcoskiRedSprite

Tucson-based storm chaser Kevin Rimcoski was at Mount Lemmon’s Windy Point Sunday night. Along with storms & the Milky Way, he captured a rare occurrence: red sprites! What are these and how do they form?

RedSpritesDistance

Red sprites are weak electrical discharges that can form directly above a decaying complex of storms. They occur roughly 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. For perspective, most lightning strikes happen within a few miles above the Earth.

Speaking of lightning, red sprites are also triggered by positive lightning strikes. These are bolts that travel from the tops of the clouds down to the valley floors. As I’ve mentioned numerous time on the blog & on air, positive lightning strikes can be 10-100 times more powerful than their negative counterparts. That’s due to the amount of required energy to travel through the atmosphere.

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