On November 8th, Hurricane Nicole hit the east coast of Puerto Rico. Photographers managed to catch a rare and unique incident known as the sprite lightning during the hurricane’s storm clouds.
Frankie Lucena, a Puerto Rico-based photographer, told SpaceWeather.com that it looked as if the outer bands of the clouds were generating lightning. She also added that this outer bank is always the best place to capture lightning and this was something she took advantage of in 2016 during Hurricane Matthew.
According to Caitano L. da Silva, “Sprites are large-scale, lightning-like discharges that happen above thunderstorms.” Silva is a physics professor at New Mexico Tech.
They usually occur around 50 miles up into the atmosphere. The jellyfish-like patterns created by these sprites are due to the combination of the high altitude, temperature, and the high electrical charge present in the clouds.
József Bór, a lightning researcher at the Institute of Earth Physics and Space Science (ELKH EPSS) in Hungary has said that red sprites specifically are a form of secondary lightning that usually occurs after the more conventional type of lightning has hit. This leads to it being discharged, but whatever excess electrical energy is not discharged remains in the thundercloud.
It is after this parent lightning strike that the clouds might need to have a secondary electric discharge in the upper area of the clouds where there is low pressure. These red sprites are incredibly rare according to researchers.
Video footage of a sprite over Tropical Storm Nicole. It was captured just east of Puerto Rico last night at 12:30am. @DeborahTiempo @adamonzon @weatherchannel @vaisala @COweatherman @AMSAtmoElect @NOAAComms @spritacular @NASA @NWS @NWSSanJuan @ASIM_Payload #tropicalstormnicole pic.twitter.com/HXmkY9npoo
— Frankie Lucena (@frankie57pr) November 8, 2022