What’s Up Weather: St. Elmo’s fire isn’t just an 80’s movie

Weather

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Have you ever heard of St. Elmo’s fire? Unless you’re constantly surrounded by sailors or pilots, it wouldn’t be surprising if this weather phenomenon hasn’t popped up in one of your everyday conversations.

If you are hearing it here first, well let’s start. It’s fascinating.

Now, St. Elmo’s fire looks a lot like blue lightning, but it’s not actually lightning at all. It can be described as an electrical discharge, blue glow or a plasma. This rare phenomenon is often seen on ships out at sea and from the cockpit in an airplane.

This glowing plasma occurs because of thunderstorms. With a growing storm, more and more changers form within a storm cloud creating friction in some portions of the storm. This friction creates powerful electric fields that extend from the cloud all the way to the ground.

An electric field breaks down the air into a plasma with a ton of voltage present. This voltage literally tears apart air molecules. Eventually, a corona discharge occurs which is seen as St. Elmo’s fire.

Although St. Elmo’s fire looks intimidating, it’s not actually dangerous. The only thing hazardous when this rare weather phenomenon occurs is the storm that formed it.

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