Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paraglider swept into thunderstorm :
"Severe thunderstorms over southern and eastern states in Australia have caused serious and in some cases tragic consequences for Paragliders, who have been training for the world paragliding championships.
A German champion paraglider was sucked into a powerful thunderstorm earlier this week. She was swept over 32, 000 feet above sea level, which is higher than Mount Everest, into the eye of the storm, near Manila in New South Wales. This all happened in about 15 minutes due to the strong updraughts inside the Cumulonimbus cloud (specific clouds associated with thunderstorms). The glider moved with a speed of 20 m/s (39 mph) whilst ascending within the cloud and the powerful downdraughts brought her down at 30 m/s (58 mph). Cumulonimbus clouds are fuelled by vigorous convective updraughts (sometimes in excess of 58 mph); the tops of the clouds can easily reach 39, 000 feet. Large thunderstorms have deep rotating updraughts and can have a lifetime of several hours. They can produce frequent lightning, large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. The sportswoman was unconscious for part of this remarkable ‘flight’ but when she awoke she was aware of lightning and heard thunder all around her. It is amazing that she survived this ordeal. Not surprisingly she suffered frostbite to her face, as temperatures near the top of the cloud would have been as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius. The combination of moisture and very low temperatures cocooned the glider in ice. She also endured abrasions on her legs from large, pelting hailstones."

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