Sprites and elves (thunderstorm)
Williams, Earle R. Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Sprites and elves
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Transient luminous phenomena over thunderstorms have been reported occasionally for many years, but solid quantitative documentation has been lacking. In the 1980s, a research group at the University of Minnesota recorded broad luminous shapes in the dark sky over a thunderstorm 250 km (150 mi) distant. In the early 1990s, laterally extensive short-lived illumination over thunderstorms was documented in video images recorded on the NASA space shuttle. These two sets of pioneering observations quickly motivated two independent field campaigns to characterize the phenomena: a ground-based experiment from an observatory in Colorado and an aircraft-based program over the central United States led by researchers associated with the University of Alaska. The detailed results of these studies inspired two names for transient luminous events over thunderstorms, each with a distinct physical origin: sprites and elves.
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