Where cold and warm air meet, our atmosphere churns with energy. From the turbulence of supercell thunderclouds to the immense electrical discharge of lightning, there’s much that’s breathtaking about stormy skies. Photographer Dustin Farrell explores them, with a special emphasis on lightning, in his short film, “Transient 2″.
As seen in high-speed video, lightning strikes begin with tree-like leaders that split and spread, searching out the path of least resistance. Once that line from cloud to ground is discovered, electrons flow along a plasma channel that arcs from sky to earth. The estimated temperatures in the core of this plasma reach 50,000 Kelvin, far hotter than the Sun’s surface. It’s this heating that generates the blue-white glow of a lightning bolt. The heating also expands the air nearby explosively, producing the shock wave we hear as a crash of thunder. (Images and video credit: D. Farrell et al.; via Colossal)