Rare sprite lightning ignites sky over Hurricane Matthew

Behold an elusive weather phenomenon caught on film as mysterious sprite lightning flashes above a Category 4 hurricane.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

It would be easy to go through life and never witness a sprite, a rare and mysterious electrical discharge akin to lightning. Sprites form above storm clouds, and few storms can rival the sheer dangerous power of a hurricane. Puerto Rico sprite hunter Frankie Lucena caught a whole series of sprites forming above Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 hurricane currently threatening the Caribbean Sea.

Lucena posted a video on Sunday showing 11 different sprites.

"I slowed it down to show that some of these sprites seem to be dancing over the hurricane," Lucena writes. They appear as swaths of light across the dark sky, and some look like they're made up of multiple tendrils. Lucena recently filmed a spectacular jellyfish sprite, which highlights the tentacle-like nature of certain sprites.

Another Lucena video from Saturday shows even more sprites making fleeting appearances above storm cells. While regular lightning typically appears in hot, jagged bolts, sprites are dimmer and colder and found only above clouds, not below.

The University of Alaska offers a few tips for sprite spotting: Find a clear view of a thunderstorm when it's completely dark. Your best viewing distance will be at around 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 kilometers) away. Look above an active thunderstorm and try to block out any lightning below. If you get very lucky, you will spot one. Or you can just watch Lucena's fascinating videos.

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