Any Correlation between Superbolts and Hail?

Ahmad B

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Jan 9, 2022
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Hello all,

I came across a publication studying the distribution of superbolts (lightning bolts with at least a thousand times the energy of the average bolt): Error - Cookies Turned Off . I was trying to study this kind of bolts further and understand why they are this bright and powerful, but I couldn't find many resources exploring this. One online resource I found about lightning in general was this: True Facts About Lightning - Weather Geeks , and one thing they mention is that blue lightning is usually correlated with a high precipitation storm with chances of hail.

This got me thinking: is there any correlation at all between the formation of hail in a storm and the power or probability of lightning? Since I couldn't find an academic reference, I thought more experienced people like yourselves might have an answer.

Thank you!
 

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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After shooting a few of these over the years, I call them "SMD" or "Single Massive Discharge." I suppose a cloud is like a battery. It can build up a large amount of energy and for various reasons it may not be able to connect the leaders until the right conditions are met. Here is a picture of most intense one I ever photographed near Tucson. The cloud kept flashing until it emitted one insane discharge.


L12.jpg
 

Ahmad B

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Jan 9, 2022
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Wowowow! Amazing picture!!! Thanks for sharing.
It does seem like your battery analogy is accurate, but I still can't figure out where hail comes in in this battery. Like, does it increase the intensity? Does it decrease it? Does it not matter?... It's a very intriguing aspect of the structure of bolt-emitting clouds to me, and I can't seem to find an answer (in my limited research).
 

Randy Jennings

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May 18, 2013
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This got me thinking: is there any correlation at all between the formation of hail in a storm and the power or probability of lightning? Since I couldn't find an academic reference, I thought more experienced people like yourselves might have an answer.
I am not aware of published papers on this, but I don't think there is a correlation between hail and probability of lightning as I have seen storms that have hail and little to no lightning or vise versa. As chasers we often think of both hail and lightning as indicators of storm strength, although that probably isn't always right either (see Is lightning the best indicator of severe thunderstorm intensity? - The Washington Post ) .
 
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Lou Ruh

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May 17, 2007
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On the other hand, Lightning Basics details the prevailing idea about how lightning forms ... see the section called "What causes lightning?" ... hail/graupel/ice crystal collisions are a big part of the process according to the prevailing theory . See also https://www.ess.uci.edu/~yu/class/ess124/Lecture.20-22.H_L_D.all.pdf ... slide 10 ... " Lighter crystals collide with heavy hailstones in the cloud" . Hail does not always reach the ground (which would explain why you don't see hail at the ground from all lightning producers), but, using the ideas here, if your storm is not producing hail, there won't be lightning. However, as Randy said, there is no known correlation between hail size and lightning strength (as far as I know).
 
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Ahmad B

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Jan 9, 2022
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Your explanation and the references you provide are extremely helpful; I can't thank you enough! The final conclusion, then, is that hail does play a major role in the creation of lightning. However, it plays this role in the cloud itself, and that's why we don't always see hail when lightning forms in a storm. This helps more than you can imagine :)
 

Warren Faidley

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Lightning is also created in dust storms and during volcanic eruptions, without hail. It involves the basic physics of objects or particles colliding. There are others on this site who can explain the process in detail better than me. Here is a great article about dust storm-generated lightning.

 

Ahmad B

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Jan 9, 2022
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This is also extremely helpful! Thanks a lot :) I think I'm starting to understand the process better thanks to this thread.
 

James K

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Mar 26, 2019
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I read through some of the linked articles(might go back to the others later as tome allows). This is a good thread with interesting stuff!

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I knew volcanoes erupting created lightning, but didn't know dust storms could first time I've about that. (not surprised though...all that dry dust/dirt blowing around in the air certainly seems like something that could generate a static charge...)
 
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Lou Ruh

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