A series of unusually strong spring storms passing through the southeastern United States forced residents to take refuge from a hail the size of a golf ball and dangerous tornadoes. High in the sky at this time sprites are dancing. Paul M. Smith of Edmond, Oklahoma, took these pictures on April 22.
“Throughout the night there were warnings of tornadoes and very large hail,” says Smith. “I took pictures of sprites around midnight.”
Sprites are a form of electricity in powerful thunderclouds. While ordinary spears of lightning descend, sprites jump up. They can reach all the way to the edge of space at an altitude of 90 km or more above the surface of the Earth. Spring thunderstorms often produce the first large sprites of the year, and observations continue until the end of summer.
“My camera was pointing toward Oklahoma City,” Smith says, “and the sprites were about 150 miles away.”