7 Most Incredible Skyscrapers Being Struck by Lightning

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Image: Mark d’Andrea

The tallest building in the world being struck by lightning.

All images are copyrighted and used with permission of the photographers.

With a deafening sound, the lightning bolt strikes the building’s antenna, while onlookers instinctively cover their ears and scramble for safety. Meanwhile, visitors inside the giant skyscraper are torn between grabbing their cameras and running for cover, shocked by the reality of being trapped within a building being struck by lightning…


Image: Ryan Pastorino

Lightning striking the skyscrapers of Chicago.

What exactly happens when lightning strikes a skyscraper? Let’s take the Empire State Building as an example. The iconic Art Deco tower – a veritable old-fashioned gentleman among today’s skyscrapers – was, according to some sources, designed as a giant lightning rod from the day it opened its doors in 1931. In fact, scientists from the American Institute of Electrical Engineers recorded every single one of the Empire State Building’s lightning strikes between 1934 and 1937 on film, in order to determine the speed with which lightning strikes (10,000 miles per second, apparently, although that figure is still open to debate). The recordings continued as, in the words of one weather blog, “scientists measured some of the very first oscillographic readings of lightning currents there using tethered balloons in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.”

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Image: Dan Nguyen

This fantastic image of the Empire State Building being hit by lightning was taken on June 9, 2011. A violent thunderstorm passed through the city that brought torrential rains and hail. Whether this marked the last storm of spring or the first of summer, it seems the weather gods were out to give New Yorkers some excitement!

In a nutshell, skyscrapers are steel cages comprising various compartments that divide and subdivide the energy from a lightning strike until it is safely guided to the ground where it spreads out. A skyscraper thus functions in a similar way to a Faraday cage – a shield or enclosed space made of conducting material – that, like a plane, protects people from natural electric sparks such as lightning. Safe in this knowledge, sit back and relax while you enjoy these images of seven of the world’s tallest and most iconic skyscrapers being struck by lightning, shown in order of their height.

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