Lightning strikes and the strange marks they leave behind

Posted: Updated:
This may look like an intricate tattoo, but it's actually a skin pattern caused by lightning strikes. (Source: Front Porch/New England Journal of Medicine) This may look like an intricate tattoo, but it's actually a skin pattern caused by lightning strikes. (Source: Front Porch/New England Journal of Medicine)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

This may look like an intricate tattoo, but it's actually a skin pattern caused by lightning strikes! 

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of a skin pattern caused by a lightning strike]

Lightning strikes bring many problems to people who end up living. Paralysis, neurological injury, heart problems, sensitivity to sound and light, insomnia and depression to name a few.  

But there is a relatively painless and interesting part of a lightning strike that leaves a distinct mark most emergency room doctors can spot in a second. It's also found in the grass after lightning strikes a golf course.  

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of a pattern on a golf course caused by a lightning strike]

They are called Lichtenberg figures, or lightning flowers. The electrical pattern was named after the German physicist Georg Lichtenberg who discovered them. 

The rare pattern looks like tree branches, roots or a fern leaf that spread over the skin. In some of these pictures, it looks like a faded henna tattoo. 

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here to see picture of a skin pattern caused by a lightning strike]

While the exact process on the body is unknown, several medical journals say it's likely the surge of electricity during a strike bursting capillaries and causing red blood cell leakage to rise to the skin surface in an unusual pattern.

The Lichtenberg figures tend to go away in a few days and are relatively painless.

[MOBILE USERS: Click/tap here to see a picture of skin patterns caused by a lightning strike]

Doctors say they are crucial to lightning strike diagnosis because they have such very distinct pattern. Many times people are knocked unconscious when struck by lightning and end up in the ER not knowing what happened to them. 

When this pattern is present (among other symptoms), a doctor can quickly tell that someone was hit by lightning. 

[WATCH: Arizona becomes center of lightning universe during monsoon]

[READ MORE: Arizona lightning]

[SPECIAL SECTION: Monsoon 2017]

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • Avoid the shock In Phoenix

    Avoid the shock In Phoenix

    Wednesday, January 24 2018 2:58 AM EST2018-01-24 07:58:17 GMT
    There is a rise of static electricity. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)There is a rise of static electricity. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Are your clothes sticking to you? Have you been zapped by a jolt of electricity lately? Paul Horton has tips on how to keep the static electricity down.

    More >

    Are your clothes sticking to you? Have you been zapped by a jolt of electricity lately? Paul Horton has tips on how to keep the static electricity down.

    More >
  • The amazing discovery of cold fronts 100 years ago

    The amazing discovery of cold fronts 100 years ago

    Tuesday, January 23 2018 4:18 AM EST2018-01-23 09:18:03 GMT
    Scientists in Norway and Sweden formulated the theory that weather activity is concentrated in relatively narrow zones or "fronts." (Source: 3TV/American Meteorological Society)Scientists in Norway and Sweden formulated the theory that weather activity is concentrated in relatively narrow zones or "fronts." (Source: 3TV/American Meteorological Society)

    The theory of warm and cold fronts was developed about 100 years ago by scientists who NEVER got to look at a satellite photo of clouds from space. And, amazingly, they got it right with a system we still use today.

    More >

    The theory of warm and cold fronts was developed about 100 years ago by scientists who NEVER got to look at a satellite photo of clouds from space. And, amazingly, they got it right with a system we still use today.

    More >
  • Dry winter drags on in Arizona

    Dry winter drags on in Arizona

    Thursday, January 18 2018 8:19 PM EST2018-01-19 01:19:10 GMT
    There hasn't been a lot of snow in the higher elevations for Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)There hasn't been a lot of snow in the higher elevations for Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    The new data released by the U.S. Drought Monitor show drought continuing through most of Arizona.

    More >

    The new data released by the U.S. Drought Monitor show drought continuing through most of Arizona.

    More >