'71,000 strikes': Why sky turned green during huge storm in Queensland

·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read

Residents in southeast Queensland were treated to a rare sight on Wednesday as heavy storms lashed the region

The Bureau of Meteorology listed two severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of the state on Wednesday afternoon as heavy rain and hail wreaked havoc, with the roof of a Sunshine Coast Kmart store unable to handle the immense downpour.

An outbreak of severe thunderstorms hitting southeast Queensland in May is unusual, Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino says.

Storm clouds over Brisbane on Wednesday evening.
Brisbane was met with heavy rain and strong winds on Wednesday evening. Source: Reddit/Jord0t

But not as unusual as what happened to the colour of the sky.

While it's generally considered a transition month, southeast Queensland endured some wild May weather this week. 

West of Brisbane there were reports of hails as big as 5cm, while parts of the state were smashed with flash flooding and damaging winds.

While there was plenty of rain – some 25mm of rain was recorded in under an hour in the city – locals noticed the green hue that hung over Brisbane.

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Green colour of Brisbane sky explained 

Radars showed the huge level of lighting strikes during the intense storm throughout the evening.

"There were about 71,000 [lightning] strikes detected within a 150 km radius of Brisbane between 4pm and 8pm on Wednesday," Mr Domensino wrote in a blog post overnight.

"Around 5,400 of these were cloud-to-ground strikes, while the rest occurred within or between clouds."

Particularly intense storms, with high levels of moisture, can cause a green tinge to the storm clouds when the light is right, he explained. 

A map showing lightning strikes detected around Brisbane between 4pm and 8pm on Wednesday.
Lightning strikes detected within 150 km of Brisbane between 4pm and 8pm on Wednesday. Source: Weatherzone

"Thunderstorm clouds can take on a range of colours as the water and ice they contain scatters light.

"When an intense thunderstorm containing large quantities of rain and hail occurs while the sun is low in the sky, the combination of red or orange light in the atmosphere and the light being scattered by the storm itself can produce a distinct green hue in the storm cloud."

The phenomenon is usually only visible when storms are mature and intense – a sign you should probably take cover, the meteorologist warned. 

With the wild weather having now passed, the Bureau of Meteorology has no weather warnings currently in place for the state. 

A top of 26 is forecast for Brisbane on Thursday before a mostly sunny Friday and weekend.

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