Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lightning Struck a Tree

Recently lightning struck a tree near by the building I work in. I took a few pictures of the lightning damage to the tree before they cut it down. The tree is very old and UNC was considering removing it anyway, but with this much damage they will just have to remove it as soon as possible. I spoke briefly with someone who works for the grounds crew and he said, "The tree is already dead, it just doesn't know it yet."

I would like to point out the distinct spiral pattern of the lightning strike. From all the trees I have seen that have been struck by lightning, they all have the same distinctive spiral pattern. I don't know why follows the spiral pattern, but I do know why lighting causes trees to explode like this. If the tree is dry (i.e. no rain has fallen) then the lightning will travel down through the living part of the tree, where the sap and water is. The water super-heats and expands rapidly (it literally explodes) causing the outer layer of the tree to blow out. In some cases, such as this, the damage is extensive enough that it will kill the tree outright or do enough damage to severely reduce its ability to survive.

You can see two separate spiral patters here where the lightning traveled down the tree.
If you look carefully you can see the splintering going all the way up the tree.
From the exact opposite side of the tree from the previous picture.
A close up of where the lightning traveled down the tree. The section where the bark has been removed is about 8-9 inches wide, and you can see two groves where the lightning actually traveled. One is at the extreme left of where the bark has been stripped, and the other is slightly off to the right from the middle of the stripped area.


Felicia Follum said...

Nature is amazing. All the beauty and detail that God put into everything never ceases to amaze me as an artist.

Felicia Follum

Spencer said...


Chris Neme said...

"Tree was practically dead" What? It looks perfectly healthy. It's bark shows no sighns of disease, and its leaves are dark green. I grow many plants including shrubs and trees, I know a sick tree when I see one.

Quantumleap42 said...

Chris, the tree died because of the lightning strike, which is what the grounds keeper was referring to when he said that the tree was already dead. It looked healthy but because the strike had spiraled all the way around the tree it effectively killed it. He was not talking about a disease. I was going to post a follow up picture but the day I remembered to bring a camera to take a picture was the day after they cut it down, but all the leaves on the tree had died and the tree was quite dead. There was another tree right next to it that also got hit, but the lightning scar did not travel as much, but it did lose a major branch.