Mother Nature’s Television
2013-06-03 08:55:52.000 – Tom Padham, Summit Intern
Rainbow after a passing shower
Mother Nature provided for plenty of excitement Sunday afternoon as a line of strong storms crossed the summit. Around 4pm the line reached the summit, with heavy rain quickly beginning to fall and winds from the thunderstorm downdraft causing a ramp up from only 25mph before the storm to a peak gust of 101mph! This tied the highest winds I had ever seen on the summit, which was also personally very exciting for me. In addition to the high winds, up to quarter inch hail fell, along frequent lightning which ended up striking the summit of the mountain two times (I suppose lightning can strike the same place twice). It was also pretty entertaining watching the observers frantically run out to the front door to measure hail in hurricane force winds, something you certainly don’t see every day.
Thunderstorms are one of, if not the most awesome display of nature. It always amazes me to think that a single lightning bolt can reach over 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun! This incredibly high temperature is also reached and cooled back to normal in only tens of milliseconds, causing the air around the lightning to expand so rapidly and violently it produces a shock wave which we hear as thunder. A single bolt of lightning can also be 3-4 miles tall, yet only typically a half inch or less in width. As a meteorologist, there are so many fascinating things about even a single topic such as a thunderstorm; hopefully we’ll have many more opportunities to see thunderstorms this summer!
Tom Padham, Summit Intern