Tree gutted by lightning

A bolt knocked the crown off this tulip poplar, splitting the tree down to the roots in the process. A fire then started in the split trunk, hollowing it out. Now the trunk is a tube, entirely charred inside. In the mid-section of the tree the bark and remaining wood is no more than a few centimeters thick. Up top, several branches are still alive.

Trees are not the only witnesses to lightning strikes. NASA detects “flash rates” of lightning across the globe from sensors in orbiting satellites. The image below uses this NASA data to map lightning strikes (fromNOAA’s Science on a Sphere project; click on “view interactive sphere” on the right-hand side of the page to view your own part of the world). Map projection: from orbit, where North means nothing.


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