Rudy Moore filmed a short video on Lake Monona of what appeared to be electrical charges coming off his fingertips and the hand of a friend.
He said he noticed the effect when he made a gesture with his arm. In the video, Moore can be heard calling the experience “amazing.”
“I have never seen this before, it’s like, not believable,” Moore said as he filmed his hand in the air.
News 3 Meteorologist Bob Lesh said the video appears to be capturing Moore and his friend experiencing St. Elmo’s Fire, which is a continuous discharge of electricity from a charged object (in this case, fingers). It happens when there’s a difference between the charge on an object and the charge of the air. Generally the difference is miniscule, but in certain situations, the air can become more highly charged, usually due to thunderstorms. A larger example is lightning, which can be described as an enormous static spark from the clouds to the ground, the same as touching a doorknob after shuffling your feet on the carpet.
“In this case, though, the charge in the air came from a different source: the heavy snowburst going on just to the north of that area at the time,” Lesh said. “The difference in charge between the area they were in and the area receiving the snow provided enough current for the air to ionize.”
Lesh said the charge glows blue or violet because when gasses ionize, they glow different colors, and the air is largely made up of nitrogen and oxygen, which produce a blue color.
“It’s the same process that makes neon lights work,” Lesh said. “Pretty cool!”