First Red Sprites Observed Over Central Europe in 2017

April 11, 2017

RedSprite_224127 (1 z 1) (1)

Photographer: Martin Popek
Summary Authors: Martin Popek; Jim Foster

Shown above are the first red sprites of the 2017 storm season, over Europe, as viewed from over 250 miles (400 km) away. My location was in the extreme eastern Czech Republic, the storm cells were along the border between Germany and the Czech Republic -- at left. Cold season thunderstorms over Europe tend to have low cloud heights, so being able to observe the red sprites, a high altitude form of lightning, was a surprise. Additionally, though it's thought that sprites form over the more active thunderstorms, those having a strong electric field, little conventional lightning activity (cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground) was reported from the storm that produced these enigmatic flashes. The sprites featured here occurred approximately 35 mi (56 km) above the surface. It should be noted that even with excellent viewing conditions these quick flashes are hard to catch with the naked eye. Photo taken on March 9, 2017.