Sprites dance above Hurricane Matthew

As Hurricane Matthew intensified over the weekend near Colombia, a keen skywatcher in Puerto Rico caught a glimpse of an unusual type of lightning known as sprites.

Oblivious to the fury of the storms below, sprites are weak bursts of energy released directly above an active thunderstorm cloud, according to the glossary of the American Meteorological Society.

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Major #Sprite activity over #HurricaneMatthew, do not discount #spaceweather influence of this storm! @TMainolfiWESH 



The sprites "were located about 400 miles southwest of my location in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico," wrote Frankie Lucena, who captured the sprites in a YouTube video. "Some were from a storm cell near Aruba and some were from a storm cell near the northern tip of Colombia," he said.


Predominantly red in color, sprites usually last no more than a few milliseconds and don't appear to contact the cloud directly. Because of their low surface brightness, they have only been seen at night, according to New Mexico Tech.

Sprites have been known to reach heights of 60 miles, and until their official discovery about 20 years ago, used to go by other names, such as upward lightning and cloud-to-stratospheric lightning.

USA TODAY


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