Bolts From the Blue: The Electric Colors of Lightning

Bolts From the Blue: The Electric Colors of Lightning

Though a lightning bolt radiates pure white light, various atmospheric conditions can tint the brilliant flash into a rainbow of electrical colors. Red, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple, violet, cyan, and orange are all possible lightning colors, depending upon the presence of water vapor, dust, pollution, rain, or hail.

Just as lightning is said never to strike twice in the same place, no two lightning bolts are ever exactly the same color. In fact, different branches of the same bolt can exhibit different colors, due to temperature variations. The hotter the bolt, the bluer or whiter it will appear, and the cooler it is, the more orange or red. Because lightning heats the air as it travels, the presence of different gasses will also lend color as they ignite.

Lightning Colors
By jahdakine.

Weather expert Dan Robinson explains that different film stocks, exposure times, and camera types can also bring colour to lightning. "The same lightning channel can appear blue, purple, red or orange depending on the type of film, length of exposure, and other factors. Slide film is more likely to produce a more purple/blue image, while print film tends to give lightning a more yellow/orange tint."

Lightning Fun facts:

  • A lightning bolt can travel 60,000 miles per hour.
  • Lightning temperatures can reach nearly 30,000 K (55,000° F), which is five times hotter than the sun.
  • In addition to thunder storms, dust storms and volcanic ash eruptions can trigger lightning. So can rocket launches, aircraft flights, and nuclear detonations.
  • The exact cause of lightning remains "hotly debated" in scientific circles.

Lightning Colors
By andrewomerknapp.

Lightning Colors
By phatman.

Lightning Colors
By WhiteGoldWielder.

Lightning Colors
By wvs.

Lightning Colors
By TrippG.

Lightning Colors
By chadmill.

Lightning Colors
By Vanhap.

Lightning Colors
By ~Prescott.

Lightning Colors
By darkmatter.

Lightning Colors
By Leorex.

photo by tenfrozentoes
A double rainbow and lightning bolt, by tenfrozentoes.


Here is a sampling of lightning from the COLOURlovers library:

Lightning_Strike lightning

lightning lightning_crash

Lightning_Strikes Lightning

post_lightning_blue Greased_Lightning

Lightning_Aftershock Lightning_Effect

Lightning_Strike lightning_number

Lightning_Strke Lightning_Bolt

Craig ConleyAbout the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow

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Showing 1 - 14 of 14 Comments
Electric Green Sky
i am also electrik.. . or so i've been told. great photo set!
the colors of lightning ... or the colors of photoshopped lightning? ;)

either way cool post and nice pictures
the 11th picture, by darkmatter... oooooo... looks terrifyingly beautiful.
Awesome article! I love the pictures.

In your fun facts paragraph, I think you may mean "rocket launches". :)
I love watching lighting. I was never afraid of storms as a child, I was excited because a thunder storm meant the chance to see a great natural light show.
One Independence Day a few years ago I went to a nearby harbor to watch fireworks. A the sun was setting, a storm was approaching over the lake. Mother Nature's fireworks were almost better than the city's fireworks. The crowd even oohed and ahhed over each lightning flash.
Thunder & Lightning

Everlasting Storm
awesome photos
Those are some really nice photos, especially the on by jahdakine (2nd one down) very nice.
Were wvs and leorex out in the same storm?
Awesome! I'm fascinated by lightning, hence my username :D
I remember one lightning hitting really close to my house while my father was outside, and its glow in walls outside and through the window was red/pink.
Thunderstorms are my Great Love. They show up very frequently in my stories, poems, and palletes. I love the sound of thunder that you can feel as well as hear, and the tickle of electricity in the air right before the storm, and the flash of terror that accompanies each strike like a sudden drop on a roller coaster ride. There are even more colors to lightning than the bolt itself--the afterimage can be a completely different color. Around here, it's usually purple or magenta.

My favorite of these pics is the double rainbow one, but they're all awesome.

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