What happens when lightening hits sea water? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-03-2020 Thread Starter
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What happens when lightening hits sea water?

Last night, while sailing south along the east African coast, far out to sea, we ran through some strong localized weather. Finally, I was able to get some night images of lightning strikes on the ocean. What happens to the ocean around the strike? Look close at the circular area on the sea surface surrounding the strike: I am not sure if that pool on the water at the base of the bolt is a reflection or a smoothing/vaporizing of the water by the lightning bolt. That water does appear much different than the rest of the sea surface. Amazing though, we have been through so many intense lightning frights around the world but this boat is not, so far, attractive to lightning bolts..... and some cruising boats have been hit two and three times by lightning.
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post #2 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

boils the water?
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

I was calf deep walking into the water to go surfing when lightening struck out at sea, I felt a tingle in the water and all the hair on my body stood up. When still dry above the waist and sitting with legs in water I could feel the tingle every strike, as soon as my body was wet I didn't feel them anymore. The lightening was at least 1/2 to 1 mile away, it was most disconcerting.
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post #4 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

Cool picture!

My understanding is that the charge builds up between the surface of the water and the cloud. When lightning strikes it the charge is dissapated in the top 6 inches or so, and much (exponentially) more at the surface than at the bottom.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

That's an amazing picture! Thank you.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

Angle of incidence and angle of refection might be incorporated in an explanation ??? Or the exciting of zooplankton around the strike ?
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Last edited by Capt Len; 02-03-2020 at 05:26 PM.
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post #7 of 11 Old 02-03-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

If you shot that, by chance, in raw, run it thru an image editing program.
Great pic
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-04-2020 Thread Starter
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

Thinking years back, we were on a sailboat delivery, just north of St. Thomas, headed for Rhode Island, when the sunny day suddenly changed to an intense localized weather system. A lightening bolt hit only a couple hundred feet to port. I don't remember anything unusual happening to the surface of the water with that strike, so maybe this image is showing a strange light reflection. With that years ago lightning bolt, I was holding onto the steel bar at the binnacle and received a pretty good zap. None of the other 3 people in the cockpit felt anything.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-04-2020
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That's really cool. I'd suggest posting the question and the photo in a wider forum (Reddit, maybe?) or send to someone who studies severe weather and ask them. It would be interesting to learn more about this!
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-06-2020
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Re: What happens when lightening hits sea water?

Possibly small waves caused by the shock wave of sound advancing from the strike point.
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