An outdoor photographer has captured an unusual weather phenomenon in the central US region. Known as a “sprite,” the visual occurs in certain conditions during lightning storms, with the lightning extending well above the thunderstorm itself.
Paul M Smith, originally from the UK but now working in Canada and the US, managed to capture the scene during severe thunderstorms last week. Significantly larger than your average lightning bolt, sprites are rarely seen with the human eye. Red sprites in particular only last for a few milliseconds. Given that they occur during thunderstorms, they’re also notoriously tricky to spot, often hidden by the clouds that produce them.
The red color of the sprites is said to be caused by the interaction between the sprites and nitrogen in the atmosphere, according to the University of Washington.
As per NASA:
Red sprites are short-lived, red flashes that occur about 80 kilometers (50 miles) up in the atmosphere. With long, vertical tendrils like a jellyfish, these electrical discharges can extend 20 to 30 kilometers up into the atmosphere and are connected to thunderstorms and lightning.
After first picking up a DSLR in 2015, Smith says he immediately got hooked on night time photography – particularly aurora. You can see more of Smith’s work at his website, Facebook, and YouTube channel.
Images courtesy, and used with permission of, Paul M Smith.