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Vernel Fall, Merced River, Yosemite National Park

The Moon is New


Spiral lightning scars

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Spiral lightning scars
August 06, 2012 05:14PM
I was hiking yesterday at Big Basin, near Santa Cruz. Walking among the giant redwoods and very large Douglas firs, when my companion asked if I could show her an exploded tree.

Huh? Yes, she said, if dry lightning strikes a tree with thick bark, like a redwood, it will run down the moist layer inside of the bark, and the steam will blow all the bark off. Or the tree may just explode.

Well, you see lightning damaged trees all the time in Yosemite. Here are a couple from a hike I took a couple weeks ago on the Smoky Jack Ridge, across the road from the abandoned Smoky Jack campground (T6 on the Tioga Road) near White Wolf. The ridge is not nearly as high as the nearby El Capitan Ridge, but it is completely exposed to weather coming from the west and south. The first thing that you see when you get up on the ridge is this big old ponderosa pine, which is not nearly as tall as it should be. The top has been blown away more than once.

And if you look at at a neighboring dead tree, you see the same thing.

Spiral lightning scars are very common. But exploding trees? If you look on the web, there are some reports, like this one:

So I have two questions. First, have any of you seen this sort of thing? Just how rare is it? Second, all of my own photos show pines with a right-handed spiral and oaks with a left-handed one. Is this species specific?
avatar Re: Spiral lightning scars
August 06, 2012 08:34PM
First, have any of you seen this sort of thing?

I've seen two exploded trees. One on the way into the fissures and the second on the trail along Kibbie Ridge going into Lords Meadow. In both instances the remnant chunks were the right size for for firewood.

Old Dude
avatar Re: Spiral lightning scars
August 08, 2012 10:37PM
Those seem to be following the grain of the wood in the tree.
The grain isn't straight up and down.
The tree grows in a spiral and is stronger as a result.
It's pretty obvious to see when you find a dead tree where all the bark has fallen off.
avatar Re: Spiral lightning scars
August 12, 2012 11:36AM
A few years ago I saw a recently exploded tree along the trail that climbs Bear Ridge from Edison Dam, not much was left of the tree, tree pieces were scattered across a couple hundred foot diameter area.
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