12 August 2020 16:37
From Esquire The Balkans is on fire. Not politically, this time – lord knows they've had quite enough of that – but literally: at the time of writing, lightning is raining down from the Aegean coast to the shores of the Black Sea. From Bosnia to Bulgaria, strikes are landing around 150 times a minute. Zeus must be pissed about something. I've always been a little bit obsessed with lightning, as I think every kid is at some point. It inspires in me the same kind of awe I imagine Wordsworth felt when confronted by daffodils and clouds, although frankly I think it's far easier to see the sublime in sky-splitting blasts of light, heat and noise than in delicate petals.
That's probably why people have always sensed the gods in storms: the Romans had Jupiter with his thunderbolts; Norse god Thor beat out thunder with his hammer, Mjolnir; the Navajo creation myth prominently features a pair of heroic twins who conquer their foes with arrows made of lightning. Today, we still tell kids that thunder is god bowling. View photos Photo credit: ullstein bild Dtl. - Getty Images More This is all myth, of course, and we know that storms are actually caused by a far more powerful force than Thor: electrostatic energy. Sometimes, reality can strip things of their magic, but as David Attenborough has spent most of a century proving, the natural world only gets more amazing as you delve deeper into how it works. So it is with thunder and lightning – I will never cease to be astonished that something as simple as clouds moving past each other can release enough energy to basically melt the air. Which is why, when storms are coming – as they are right now, with much of the UK under Met Office weather warnings – I head straight to Lightning Maps. Its graphic shows every lightning strike happening around the world, in real time. Right now, you can see the barrage hammering the Balkans; a chain of strikes hugging the border between France and Germany; a ring of storms surrounding (of course) Bermuda. Last year, during a particular violent storm that passed straight over my house in south-east London, I watched from a third-floor window as the lightning moved in across the Channel and up through Kent, spotting it in the sky and then, a second or two later, flashing up on the map. I became obsessed with its progress, counting the gap between flash and crack as it inched closer. It felt a little like watching armageddon both as a god and their subject. It was, to use the word in its original sense, truly awesome. For the last three days, with thunder storms forecast but still yet to arrive, I've tracked walls of lightning that have moved up through central Europe, waiting for them to arrive in London and finally dispel this awful, enveloping heat. Every time they near the Channel they've dissipated, and I sink back into sweaty, sweltering bedsheets and pray that tomorrow, the storm will come. But it's getting closer. I can spot the first strikes in Brighton, another out in the North Sea. Lightning Maps let me see what Thor has planned. Here's hoping that today, he follows through. Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox SIGN UP Need some positivity right now? Subscribe to Esquire now for a hit of style, fitness, culture and advice from the experts SUBSCRIBE You Might Also Like