Lightning show lights up Valley sky

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by Amanda Goodman

Bio | Email | Follow: @AGoodmanReports

azfamily.com

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 18 at 6:41 PM

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Mother Nature put on quite a display overnight, with a brilliant lightning show lighting up the skies in many parts of the Valley.

It also lit up azfamily.com's twitter feed, with viewers sharing photos they snapped in their area. 

"Arizona is basically the lightning photography capital of the world," said ASU Professor Randy Cerveny.

If it seems like we're seeing more lightning these days. it's because we are. Well, sort of. "I think we are seeing more lightning because there are more people that are out recording lightning," Cerveny said.

That, he says, is actually a good thing, as long as it is done safely.

"It's pretty cool because that can help us figure out how weather is working as well," he said.

Monsoon thunderstorms and lightning go hand-in-hand. However, Cerveny says there are times when we may see more or less during a storm, depending on how dry or humid the air is near the ground.

"The essence of lightning here in the desert is that the dryness allows it to be more visible," he said.

There are other factors too. Cerveny says during the more violent thunderstorms that have a lot of wind and rain, there is usually a lot more lightning too.

When lightning approaches Tempe Town Lake, anyone who is on the lake is made aware, thanks to a warning system the city has in place.

"When it detects lightning within 10 miles of the lake it starts to flash," said Basil Boyd, the city's water resources hydrologist.

There are three systems set up on the lake with three different warning lights. The yellow light is for lightning.

"It just gives people a warning. Lets them know hazardous conditions, in this case, lightning, and need to move off the lake," Boyd said.

When it comes to lightning safety at home, Cerveny says to remember this: "If the time difference between the flash and the bang, if you will, is 30 seconds or less, go inside."

While most people are aware of the dangers associated with lightning, especially if it strikes a person or thing, there are some benefits as well.

"Meteorologists, we use lightning data all the time in order to try and figure out how other parts of a thunderstorm actually operate," said Cerveny.

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