Fulgurite: Dangerously beautiful creations made by lightning

Petrified lightning can be used as decoration or jewelry

By Samara Cokinos - Meteorologist

Fulgruite seen at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. Photo: Patrick Myers/National Parks Service

Lightning can leave destruction in its path in a matter of seconds, but it can also leave something beautiful behind known as fulgurite. 

When lightning strikes a sandy beach high in silica or quartz and the temperature exceeds 3,272 degrees Fahrenheit, lightning can fuse the sand to glass in a tube or crust like shape known as fulgurite.

It's almost like a mold of the lightning bolt, or petrified lightning.

The formations can have several stems branching off the base representing the path the bolt took at the time. ​​​Fulgurites also come in different colors based on the minerals in the sand where the strike occurred.

The word “Fulgur” is the Latin for lightning.

People who see fulgurite might mistake the glass for a piece of driftwood or a root.

Another place fulgurite can form, are on rocks near mountain peaks. Mountain peaks are like a natural lightning rod and can be hit several times during bad weather leaving behind a bolt pattern on the rock. 

The average size of a piece of fulgurite can vary from pea-size when broken, to a couple inches long. 

Some people use the petrified lightning as decoration or jewelry.

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