Research Spotlight: Explaining strange features of sprite lightning


  • Ernie Tretkoff


A sprite is an electrical discharge similar to lightning, but it occurs in the upper atmosphere (at altitudes of 50–90 kilometers), above large thunderstorms. These large flashes of light, which are triggered in almost all cases by a rare lightning form in which positive charge is held at the top of clouds rather than the ground, can span tens of kilometers of altitude.