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Name: Dale
Status: Other
Grade: Other
Location: N/A
Country: Peru
Date: August 2007


Question:
I am an American living in Lima Peru. We had massive earthquakes yesterday (15.August.2007). In the south of Peru, it is total devastation. During the earthquakes, there was huge lightning which is never seen in Lima. Lima basically has no rain. What caused the lightning? The lightning originated in the ground and moved skyward, Certainly there was no shortage of energy. What a remarkable personal experience.



Replies:
Lightning discharges are known to accompany both earthquakes and volcanoes. The exact mechanism is not well understood. According to one source: "Transients luminous phenomena that may be due to electrical discharges have long been observed during earthquakes and speculatively attributed to the electric field generated by seismic strain." But that does not really tell us anything, does it?

You may find the book titled "The Lightning Discharge" by Martin A. Uman, published by Dover Press interesting reading.

Vince Calder


Dale,

There were a number of reports of something like lightning and eerie lights in the sky. This was most likely not lightning, unless a thunderstorm was occurring at the same time (I have seen no mention of a thunderstorm in the eye-witness reports).

The severity of the earthquake and movement of the fault may have created a large amount of static electricity, which was discharged from the ground. This guess is purely speculation and I hope that a geophysicist can shed more light on this unusual phenomenon.

David R. Cook
Meteorologist
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division



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