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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

Section 6.1.3

Weather Factoids

1. Equivalent Events

Energy released per million ergs (erg = unit of work):

100 watt lightbulb left on for a week 630
One ton car going 25 mph 630,000
Amount of energy in a lightning bolt 630,000,000
Seismic wave from 1 kiloton explosion 630,000,000
1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens 630,000,000,000,000
Annual US energy consumption 630,000,000,000,000,000

2. Earliest Electrical Experiments

Thales, the Greek philosopher, in about 600 B.C., found that a piece of amber when rubbed briskly with a dry cloth would attract feathers or straw. Wm. Gilbert, the court physician to Queen Elizabeth in the 1500's, repeated this experiment and named the science of studying it vis electrica. The Greek word electra means amber. Our word for electricity is derived from this.

3. Major Lightning Disasters

Case Study A: On Saturday, July 10, 1926 a violent thunder and lightning storm struck the Navy Ammunition Depot near Mount Hope, NJ. Three major explosions from millions of pounds of TNT obliterated nearby buildings. Shells landed a mile away. Glass was broken three miles away by the acoustic shock wave. Smoke could be seen in New York, some 40 miles away. Nineteen people died - thirty-eight were wounded. Congress appropriated $2.3 million to rebuild the site in 1927.

Case Study B: The giant airship Hindenburg, 803 feet long, arrived at Lakehurst NJ on May 6, 1937. The crew dropped two 400-foot-long mooring lines onto the wet sand below. The wet ropes served as conductors, bringing the ground potential gradient up to the ship. A hydrogen leak at Cell 4 or 5, combining with air, was ignited by the brush discharge. Ninety seven passengers and crew perished.

4. Nature's Weather Forecasters

a. Count the number of cricket chirps in 14 seconds. Add 40. The total will equal the air temperature in F. within one degree.

b. If spiders leave their webs expect a storm. If they work when it is raining, expect a short storm.

c. Rainbows…if green in color, rain will continue; if red is the dominant color, look for wind and rain; if blue is strong, the air is clearing; if the rainbow is broken in 2-3 places, look for rainy weather for 2-3 days.

5. From Guiness Book of World Records:

Highest recorded temp. = 134 F, Death Valley CA.
Lowest recorded temp. = -128.6 F, Vostok, Antartica.
Most snow per year = 1,224.5 inches, Mr. Ranier, WA (1971-72).
Most lightning on average = Kampala, Uganda (280 thunderstorm days per year on annual average, per World Meteorological Organization.)

6. Precipitation

The total amount of rain, snow, and other moisture falling on the surface of the earth annually is equal to ten million gallons for every person on the planet.

(The above data was plagiarized from various sources by R. Kithil)


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