PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

On Sprites and Their Exotic Kin

Science  02 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5620, pp. 747-749
DOI: 10.1126/science.1083006

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Sprites--giant flashes of light illuminating the sky above thunderstorms--were discovered only 15 years ago. In his Perspective, Neubert reviews recent research into these and other electrical phenomena (such as "blue jets") in Earth's atmosphere. He highlights attempts to elucidate the physics of sprites and jets and their possible effect on the atmosphere. Whether they alter greenhouse gas concentrations in the stratosphere and mesosphere or modulate the atmospheric electric circuit remains to be shown.