esocid writes "A team of European scientists has deliberately triggered electrical activity in thunderclouds for the first time by aiming high-power pulses of laser light into a thunderstorm. At the top of South Baldy Peak in New Mexico during two passing thunderstorms, the researchers used laser pulses to create plasma filaments that could conduct electricity. No air-to-ground lightning was triggered because the filaments were too short-lived, but the laser pulses generated discharges in the thunderclouds themselves up to several meters long. Triggering lightning strikes is an important tool for basic and applied research because it enables researchers to study the mechanisms underlying lightning strikes. Moreover, triggered lightning strikes will allow engineers to evaluate and test the lightning-sensitivity of airplanes and critical infrastructure such as power lines. Research into laser-triggered lightning has been going on for some years. Until now, no experiment was able to produce a long enough plasma channel to affect the electrical activity inside clouds."
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