St. Elmo's fire can be seen outside a
© NOAA
St. Elmo's fire can be seen outside a "hurricane hunter' aircraft in the North Atlantic on Saturday.
A plane that is typically used for hunting hurricanes recently captured a rare weather phenomenon while flying above the North Atlantic.

The NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft was collecting winter storm data during its flight when what appeared to be lightning struck through the skies. While this discharge of atmospheric electricity looks similar to lightning, the aircraft actually encountered St. Elmo's Fire.

This phenomenon occurs because of a luminous plasma that is created between clouds and the ground in the vicinity of a thunderstorm's electric field, which rips molecules apart in a process called ionization.

St. Elmo's Fire has both audible and visual effects - a crackling or hissing noise can appear as well as a whitish-blue ghostly glow that is emitted near sharp objects. It is not necessarily dangerous to those on the ground, but it can be an indicator that thunderstorms are near.


In 2019 hikers on a mountain in the Alberta Rockies experienced this phenomenon when they noticed a loud electrical buzzing sound near the surface of their skin. The hikers were able to film the incident and said that they were not harmed by St. Elmo's Fire or the thunderstorm that was nearby when they noticed the buzzing sound near their skin, which can be seen in the video below.

Video here.