October 31st, 2011 • 11:53 AM
“Weird Lightning”

by Benjamin Deniston

This is partially in response to Peter's post The Crab Nebula and Lightning, but given the length I figured it'd be better to add it as a new post.

In watching a lecture by Florida Tech. professor Joseph Dwyer, Weird Lightning, even though most of it is fascinating, the 2 minute section on “sympathetic lightning” (starts at 23:30) stood out as particularly interesting. As Dwyer explains very briefly, certain studies have shown that lightning strikes tend to occur in periods of either nearly simultaneous strikes, or in very quick sequences, followed by breaks of a few seconds of no strikes. Implying that either the effects of one strike contribute to the initiation of another, or that there is some larger structure to the process which is determining the singular events. This is even more curious given that the simultaneous and/or sequential strikes are from 10's to 100's of km apart from each other.

Now, as Dwyer presents throughout the cited lecture and as Peter discussed, we currently don't know why lightning even happens in the first place. The hypothesis of the "runaway breakdown" initiated by cosmic rays is still just a hypothesis, though an interesting one, and if it is a factor, there is still likely more to the story – as the case of sympathetic lightning suggests. So, as Dwyer mentions, as we don't know why lightning initiates in the first place, the fact that it seems to occur in spatially-separated simultaneous and/or sequential strikes is a new clue that must be factored into the investigation.

What I find even more interesting is the possibility that we are dealing with an organized structure on the scale of 100's of km, where the singular lightning strikes are not isolated events, but are expressions, shadows, of a larger structured process. If this structure relates to some form of cosmic radiation, even more exciting!

In looking for more on Dwyer's quick reference, as far as I could tell there has been very little study of "sympathetic lightning." A team of scientists from Israel has been taken up the investigation over the past 10 years, and prior to that there were a few studies and some anecdotal accounts from the 70's and 80's, as the history is described by one of the authors (Can spontaneous synchronization of lightning flashes occur in a network of distant thunderstorms?”). A short Science Magazine article (Lightning Has a Long-Distance Conversation) summarizes a 2005 study by the team (full PDF: Evidence for synchronicity of lightning activity in networks of spatially remote thunderstorms), in which they used footage of lightning storms taken from aboard space shuttle missions, and then analyzed the patterns of when and where the lightning strikes occurred (using some form of systems statistics to show that it is not just random coincidence). They wrote follow up papers in 2007 and in 2009 which extended the studies by using data from ground based detection and location of lightning strikes (to give a larger data set to work with), which they say confirmed the initial studies (though I could only get my hands on the abstracts).

I'd like to see more as it comes out.

To end, I think its important to emphasize a point that has been a subject of ongoing discussion in the Basement: the role of life in lightning, and lightning in life. A direct hit may be rough, but the cumulative effect of lightning's activity appears to be crucial in creating and sustaining certain qualitative conditions of the biosphere (what Vernadsky might call its material-energetic properties). There are certain chemical effects, typified by the role of lightning in converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form that life can use (as presented in this excellent 5-minute video Peter produced, Biogenic Migration of Atoms: Nitrogen), and there are electrical and electromagnetic effects, seen in the global electric circuit and the Schumann resonances. As far as we can tell, the lightning strikes appear to be charging he ionosphere, creating the conditions for a global current flow through the atmosphere of the entire planet, while they also excite the ionosphere-atmosphere system, producing extremely-low frequency (ELF) waves, the Schumann resonance (which have been demonstrated to have biological effects on human and mammalian brain activity).

So the lightning is a crucial factor in determining the material-energetic character of the biosphere which life requires. But life does not just adapt, it creates – life itself has come to control the lightning cycle, as a function of life's control of the water cycle.

If the cosmic ray hypothesis for lightning initiation turns out to be true, we have another expression of an even larger picture: the unified galactic system in which we exist. Already cosmic rays are known to be a crucial factor for cloud formation. We are living in a developing system, where galactic processes and the activity of life intersect to create the conditions for not just existence, but the preconditions for the next successive up-shift to a higher state.

Humanity is not a species living on planet Earth, we are a species living in the Milky Way galaxy. If we don't organize our planet and relations among nations to deal with that fate, that fate will deal with us.

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The Basement Project began in 2006 as a core team of individuals tasked with the study of Kepler's New Astronomy, laying the scientific foundations for an expanded study of the LaRouche-Riemann Science of Physical Economics. Now, that team has expanded both in number, and in areas of research, probing various elements and aspects of the Science of Physical Economy, and delivering in depth reports, videos, and writings for the shaping of economic policy.