Rare Lightning Travelling from Ground To Clouds In Slow Motion

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We had some storms in the Bay Area over the weekend and I captured a slow motion video of a lightning strike, which I’m told is a rare case of lightning starting from the ground and travelling upwards to the clouds.

This was recorded on a Sony RX100 Mk VII at 960FPS, ISO 80,000


  1. Sean Absher

    I live in San Leandro, near Oakland and Hayward, I saw a ton of lightning and heard the rain… About 1/3-3/4 into the lightning , the sky went from near pitch black to dim blue on the top and oranges, pinks, and reds near the horizon. I’m not usually watching the sky at dawn, but that was all very interesting to see. Did you happen to see any of that, Scott?

  2. Jody Picard

    amazing, beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. I was out in an electrical storm like this about a month ago, here in St Catharines ON. the sound of it arcing through the sky as it burnt off ozone, oxygen and whatever else crossed its path was like a continuous light-saber battle… kzack-ksizzle-zark… truely a sight to behold, mind you i didnt have the balls to hold my cellphone to the sky and take pictures, too scarey

  3. alex Marshall

    Scott!! Great video geezer….love the subject matter and just as in awe as you are….thanks for posting…6am 18/8/20 in a barely post Lockdowntown central London 💯% ps…shared!!

  4. Nicholas Rusanoff

    You’re so cool in my book today for doing this.

  5. Moxzot

    Ground to cloud lightning is quite common in large cities where we use alot of electricity.

  6. Michał Waszak

    actually amazed by quality of video at this dark with such good frames per second using off market camera

  7. CMDR DustyEggSauce

    I think this would be positive lightning if it started from ground to cloud, there is alot more energy inside those bolts also !

  8. PI

    Didn’t know you’re a local. I saw this from SF

  9. mjproebstle

    hard to fly safe through that!

    …planes do have static wicks all over them

  10. Yeshead

    This is California’s way of saying “FU fire starters!”

  11. Chad B

    Great capture! I only wish you had been able to show it in real-time so we could see how fast it was.


    I got some good video of the lightning storm to we had a great one last night in sacramento!!

  13. Ralph111417

    Great footage Scott. You once again taught me something, I thought all lightning went from ground to cloud and then main strike goes back to ground.

  14. A320 CAT3DUAL

    HOLY COW ! Great catch Scott!

    And, its NEGATIVE to POSITIVE!

  15. Darktemp

    Just amazing! I also stay up or get up when a lightning storm is visible from my house :)

  16. Michael L

    Very cool! Also see the late Tim Samaras’ lightning videos at 100,000 FPS using his reconditioned cold-war nuclear test camera.

  17. Weetart ED

    That was spectacular….thank you EVER so much for sharing …..
    Fly Safe …. and
    Record Fast.

  18. MakeMeThinkAgain

    Great video. I’m in SF and have yet to see or hear anything. Last time we had a good summer storm on Nob Hill was 1999. I would think Sutro Tower would be a more likely source than the GG Bridge.

  19. Anthoney King

    OMG Scott that was awesome I never knew lighting could go up thank you I’m stunned by that revelation and I love watching thunderstorms

  20. Pup314

    All Lightning starts from the ground as a leader, which meets a charge coming down from the clouds to complete the circuit. This is only in the case of ground to cloud lightning and doesn’t include cloud to cloud or cloud to space (sprites and jets)

  21. MindSET

    The coolest thing I ever saw was an animation showing how raindrops fall. My God it was awesome.

  22. AnAstronaut Zimmerman

    I woke up to this lightning storm. I was surprised, cause we don’t get lightning storms around here too often.

  23. Rohan Gaming vids

    “It’s the work of an enemy stand”

  24. Jed Anderson

    We got this same lighting last night up here in Vancouver, BC. It seems to have travelled up the west coast, or appeared as a multi cell front.

  25. zapfanzapfan

    “This is the quickening!”

  26. Neil

    Have you seen the Slow Mo guys YouTube channel? They recorded lightning strikes at about 3k FPS with professional slow motion cameras

  27. kelvyquayo

    For some reason reminds me of “life finds a way”

  28. Brett Ison Gooseknack

    Lightening is excessively common in many regions of Australia! 🤣.. It’s so common, that storms don’t even bother us, its a normal daily occurence in summer(and even winter occassionally). The thunder might wake us up if it occurs overnight, but we go back to sleep. And that is regardless of whether we’re in a house or a tent… no joke! 🤣

  29. David Triphon

    Did your power go out? Several of my friends have experienced power outages in my area because of this storm. Also the smoke from all the fires that got started has not been great for my lungs…

  30. zoperxplex

    There are lots of videos on YouTube where lightning travels from the ground up and lightning apparently appearing twice in a single strike.

  31. Melvyn Davis

    Sydney calling:
    Gee Scott, what a great shot. I love what the camera allows you to capture.

  32. Arctic Haze

    Fantastic footage! Speaking of fantastic things, you must live not far from the Star Trek Starfleet Academy site 😀

  33. boredgrass

    Wow! I am impressed! I think you should send/…offer, this to Sony. And you didn’t have to travel to Singapore, like the SlowMo Guys ;-) PS: In their video they talked to an expert!

  34. tech 52

    I own two of these cameras for my work. I had no idea it had a record late feature. Thanks Scott!

  35. Ozzy Trooper

    They were called thunderstorms back in my day.

  36. Bradypus

    Maybe you can get in touch with the guys running the ASIM payload on the ISS, and ask if they have measured anything. With some luck, they may have been over the bay area at the right time

  37. Mike Macklin

    I stayed up all night watching that storm, too! So fantastic! :D

  38. lohphat

    I used to live in SF and lightning is very rare since most storms are strataform from the Gulf of Alaska. Now I’m in NYC and almost all summer storms are thunderstorms. It’s sooo cool to step outside and watch the lightning (from the street there’s low risk as there are much taller buildings in the area for the lightning to find an easier path to ground).

  39. steve shoemaker

    What about the man that was struck by Lightning 11 times and lived….Thanks Scott

  40. Andrew 13579

    When it appears to be doubling back on itself…we’re seeing a 2D picture…it could be traveling toward or away from the camera at those times, couldn’t it?
    What if two such cameras could be placed a meter apart, attached to a bar mounted on a tripod, aimed on parallel lines and kept in synch by a USB cable? That should allow for 3D video to be viewed in VR goggles! I bet viewing the traveling lightning bolt in exaggerated 3D would be sort of freaky. :) Or, maybe if both cameras could be triggered at the same time, their videos could be synced up afterwards.

  41. Terrence Hardeman

    Yes yesterday nights lightning storm was crazy all over the Bay Area

  42. Exar

    Looks like Ground to cloud lightning (Type B) caused by a structure of some kind.

    Upward lightning happens due to intense electric fields concentrated at the tip of a structure during an overhead in-cloud lightning discharge. This results in the unique characteristic of upward lightning that it would not occur in the absence of the structure initiating the discharge. In the absence of a tower or skyscraper, the overhead lightning flash in the clouds would be all that occurs. It is only by the tall structure’s presence that the ground-to-cloud component of the discharge happens at all. So, in a sense, all upward lightning occurring to a structure is partly a man-made phenomenon, one that wouldn’t exist without the structure being there.

    Doesn’t look naturally formed. A purely natural upward-moving ground-to-cloud lightning stroke is actually a rarity. It favours a unique terrain feature characterised by an isolated, small peak at very high elevations relative to its immediate surroundings. One location in the United States where ground-to-cloud lightning is known to occur naturally is at Pilot Peak, near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Pilot Peak is a tall, sharp-pointed, pyramid-shaped peak rising high above its surroundings, and at least one photograph has been obtained of a ground-to-cloud strike to its summit

  43. TheDrunkenMug

    “Nerding out” LOL 😂
    Also, good video, cool lightning !

  44. Michael

    The lightning woke us up too, it was quite a show! Very interesting to see how the lightning travels!

  45. Alex Serrano

    That’s neat! In case you didn’t know, there’s a youtuber called Pecos Hanks that has wonderful videos on this topic, with awesome footage. I really recommend it.

  46. Elsinore Bennet

    Visual evidence of why I had a couple of client’s servers reboot over the weekend, what with some localized power outages.

  47. Gordon Niessen

    One wonders what happened on the ground at the point of contact after that extended connection.

  48. Robb403

    That was probably from me. My parents always said I have a lot of potential.

  49. Andrew Price

    The lightning plasma temperatures can exceed 50,000 Kelvin. I worked on Lightning Strike Protection for composite aircraft.

  50. Tinkering in Thailand

    I love watching lightning, plenty of storms here in Thailand at the mo as it is rainy season :)

  51. John V

    The lightning was looking to become famous on YouTube \o/

  52. LunDruid

    I’ve lived in the Bay Area for (next month) 33 years. While fairly small lightning storms used to be more or less annual, usually one or two during the fall season back when we actually had a fall season, they’ve been far rarer since about 2006. And even still, I’ve never seen anything like what we got in my entire life.

  53. The ClanAdventures

    We had the best thunder and lightning storm ever to happen here in Scotland. lasted 6 hours or more. happened last week

  54. shee vang

    This thunderstorm was quite the surprise for me, it lasted for quite some time as I woke up at 3 ish and the lightning continued all the way until near sunrise.

  55. StevieSavagery

    I lost a 30 ft tree in my front yard to lightning last night :(

  56. S.E. Sander

    The first lighting bolt with RCS thrusters. The fact that it hit a quick 90° angle to the right gives it away 😉👍🏻

  57. Anna Fraley

    Never seen Anything like that, and I have been watching lightning ⛈ since the 50.!! 🤭

  58. SeanBZA

    Also got a nice stroke years ago of lightning hitting an oil storage tank. Did not go well for the tank, it burned for a few days.

  59. Mike

    Strange timing. Had a large lightning storm in my part of Western Canada last night. Very rare.

  60. Sparky Projects

    There’s a few videos showing upward lightning, some even show the leader from the cloud, then several ‘fingers’ from the ground reaching up (like the animation, but more than one finger), then one of the fingers connect.
    There’s also research groups that fire rockets into the sky with a thin wire attached so they can capture lightning, one of the groups even brought the wire down to a sand container to produce ‘fulgarites’
    Search for ‘rocket triggered lightning’ as well as lightning research.

  61. Stephan Wershoven

    Would be interesting to see the same lightning from a 90° different direction.
    For Germany where i live i could look up past lightnings with time and place for the past two weeks, don’t you have the same over there?

  62. [Redacted]

    We had the same thing in Sacramento this Monday morning at around 1am. Ball lightning which isn’t very common.

  63. blue redbrick

    Lately I’ve been using my AM radio in my car to listen to my car internal electrical signals, still an ice car, and its fun. Also electrical fences for liveststock can be heard from a long way as well as traffic detection loops and more.
    When a few day back a fat thunderstorm was rolling over my city. Every channel was overwhelmed with signals from the thunderstorm. Not merely the actual discharge events are audible, but also the many many attempts (the failed streamers lets say) are very audible. I had much fun in my faraday cage on wheels, parked somewhere with the engine off. Best quility news broadcoasting in almost real time in a while if you ask me, It put a big grin on my face and yelled *H%#%%$5 when “my” near streamer won (I managed to spot a few a them with my eyes. Nerdy, nah not at all ;) :)

    Your ground to cloud gem is awesome. Im kinda glad it was not a ground to cloud one I observed, sitting in my flimsy faraday cage knowing that the energies involved apparently are magnitudes of order larger than the more common ones.
    Cool footage.

  64. Quinton Murdock

    About July 10th near where I live (like 18 miles) lightning struck the ground. Currently the fire is affecting 85,000 acres and is the third or fourth largest fire in Colorado history. Thankfully it is a very unpopulated part of the state and there are a few miles of a completely lifeless desert between the fire and I but it is still very smoky and scary A fire this big this this close

  65. Absolute Territory

    Doesn’t MOST lightning have a return stroke up like this?

  66. Grimace427

    Last saturday we had an incredible lightning storm here in northern Virginia and I was one of many people to report some explosive strikes. It came overnight and I was awoken by a strike that shook my entire apartment and set off every car alarm in my neighborhood. I’ve experienced plenty of close strikes including trees being hit in my backyard but this was very different. Once that first strike hit my heart was beating through my chest and I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Even my nearly deaf dog was visibly shaken.

  67. Ruben Pouwen

    I had a thunder storm at my location too and recorded a lightning strike with my S10 in 960fps and it turned out to be a better quality video then this one. Insane how good smartphones cameras have gotten.

  68. jbirdmax

    That’s cool. I didn’t know you lived in the Bay Area. I’m in Antioch and the lightning started about 4am. It was 97°F at that time.

  69. S Wallace

    that started a fire in my old hometown near lake berryessa

  70. Montgomery Burns

    Thank you Scott. On behalf of my fellow meteorologists, we thank you for the treat. Personally, I’m glad you caught this and shared it. I’ll be referring my colleagues to this one. Much appreciated!

  71. Olysk8er

    1.21 gigawatts!?! Great Scott!

  72. Andrew Osburn

    I could see the lightning omw into work early Sunday morning.
    … from Sonora ca in the Sierra Nevada mountains

  73. Paul Haynes

    Interesting and unexpected – classic Scott Manley. Many thanks.

  74. Armuotas

    “..when I wake up in the middle of the night by a lightning storm my first call is just to try and take photographs of it.” Ahh, right in the feels!

  75. Cory E

    Scott: Im not a lighting expert
    Me: I’ve learned more about lightning than I’ll ever need to know in 5 minutes

  76. Andrew Parker

    I live in Orinda which is right near Walnut Creek, and it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve never seen lightning here in the Bay Area and I was up all morning watching it

  77. dmentedphotos

    That was amazing to watch. I live in the southeast where storms like this can be an every evening occurence and have always been fascinated by taking (still) pictures of lightning. Back in the days of film cameras, I would burn the batteries so fast that I ended up buying a completely manual camera just for that purpose. I love finding nights like this and getting myself into a position where I can be beside the storm to try to capture the bolts that come from the top, outside the cloud, and have been very lucky quite a few times to get some pretty amazing shots. Thanks for sharing the slow motion shot as it was just amazing!

  78. Splendid Mendax

    We havent had a storm like this in over 18 years.

  79. MalcolmCooks

    in soviet bay area, lightning strikes cloud!

  80. Dinkum Aussie

    My god! I used to take time exposure lighting pictures with my 35 mm Nikon this is a whole other level! Absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing! From the ground up demonstrated beautifully Nikolai Tesla would be impressed ! 😎👍

  81. Shawn Elliott

    Lightning ALWAYS grows from both endpoints at once. Tendrils of opposite-charge ions extend up from the ground and down from the clouds until they meet somewhere in the middle; this is why people often report they feel their hair standing on-end a few seconds before they get hit by lightning. The path the lightning _appears_ to take is the result of whether the path branches more near the ground or near the clouds, because the end with fewer branching paths has to conduct more amperage and thus the ionized air gets excited to the point of phosphorescence faster.

  82. W Davis

    It was just Iroh redirecting lighting.

  83. Lee Johnson

    My grandad told me lightning can sometimes go up from the ground when I was a kid. None of my mates believed me, even my teacher in school told me not to be so silly. Grandad was right…

  84. tilelayer

    I love so much that Scott has transitioned from video game youtuber to science uncle

  85. Brian Bisby

    This has been a very interesting few weeks here in the bay. The fires sparked are the worst part but the storms themselves have been great to watch. Thank you for capturing this video

  86. Greg Gallacci

    So the ‘anchor’ for the lightning was passing current for almost 2/3 second? Youch!

  87. Gandergray

    The entire NOAA presentation on the science of lightning can be viewed here: https://www.weather.gov/media/safety/Dr_Lightning_Guide-science.ppsx . According to the presentation, the most common cloud to ground lightning consists of (1) stepped leader (2) return stroke (3) dart leaders (4) return strokes. The visible flash is called a return stroke, and according to the presentation, occurs from the ground to the cloud. The illustration indicates cascading from the ground to the cloud.

  88. G Henrickson

    In college I was instructed most lightening is ground to cloud in the early stages of a strike. That was 20 years ago. Wonderful video. Thanks.

  89. Jules E

    Hahah, very interesting Mr Manley. So I’m not the only one waking up to see lightning during storms :)

  90. keco185

    Lightning is the OG gradient descent calculator

  91. Андрей Метасов

    It’s very possible that golden bridge “started” this, cause ground-to-cloud lightning usually starts from high man-made objects

  92. luetner

    Scott, working 30 Yrs. for the best aircraft company in the world, providing paths for lightning current through an airplane was one of my assignments. It was a very interesting job. We had a world class lightning lab. My group once had a inquiry from an airline that asked , “what do we do different from the other airline company about lightning protection”. Well it seems that things fall off when struck by lightning on the other guys airplanes. My company designed protection to protect from a 200K Amp strike. I have a book I used, I am now retired, I would like to share with you.
    luetner at hot—–

  93. paradigm respawn

    I’ve had this happen 50 feet from my apartment while working in the Forest Service & it made the strangest whooshing sound as it crackled further up.
    The next day the Forested found that the tree had instantly been killed & dry rotted when he dropped it.

  94. Frequent Flyer

    Anyone remember the big lightning storm in Ireland in the 80’s? It started around 6pm and didn’t stop till the early hours next morning. It practically didn’t get dark the whole night and if my parents description is right, there was st elmos fire arcing off the barn and lightning arcing along the floods of water washing down our lane by the house. I was young then and scared to stick my head out from under the duvet. I wish i looked at some of it now. 😔

  95. Les Hemmings

    I’ve got an app on my android phone called “Lightning Camera” that has a buffer & records when you hit the button just as you describe.
    It only gives you stills but if you can’t afford a high speed camera it’s way better than nothing. I’ve got quite a few shots now of lightning. Great fun!

  96. Joker Ace

    It is amazing to watch the electrons trace a momentary path of least resistance in a dynamically changing 3D volume of vorticity and vapor.

  97. Hebl von Heblowitz

    1:02 that’s some weird Travelling salesman algorhythm nature was running!

  98. Michael Schoen

    I witnessed this event from my front porch in Fremont. Looking towards the south the display i saw from 5:20an too 6:15am Sunday morning was one of the most spectacular lighting events i have ever seen.

  99. Daniel Kintigh

    Pecos Hank has a great video on lightning for anyone who is intrigued and wants some more juicy lightning footage

  100. The Exoplanets Channel

    Intriguing. It reminds me of how aliens descended in the movie ‘War of the Worlds’, but backwards.

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