grae313 wrote:Deserts are great places for studying atmospheric physics: NMT
I was going to link this but you beat me to it.
Three decades ago they were doing experiments on lightening strikes at Langmuir lab on the top of South Baldy, elevation 10,783 feet. Scientists drive up to the peak, but there's a pleasant trail that you can walk. When I hiked alone to the top I met a physics grad student from NMT who I had known at the campus. At the time I was a physics grad student at U. Cal., Irvine, but had been a math grad student at NMT. At a school that small, you have some sort of acquaintance with everybody there. She gave me a 15 minute tour.
In order to attract lightening bolts to an experiment at the very top of the peak they had put down a grounding net of steel cables over the mountain. There was a pole at the top of the peak intended to attract lightening. When a thunderstorm blew in, they would use rockets to fire thin wires into the cloud. The wire they used was military surplus as used by wire guided anti-tank missiles. They hadn't picked up the wires yet and their silvery streaks covered the bald top of the mountain as if a tank battle had recently taken place there.
Grad students would be in a room under the pole at the time it was struck by lightening. Current from the lightening would be measured and recorded. This would be about as close as you'd ever want to be to a lightening strike, a few feet. It was safe because the current would flow down the metal sides of the Faraday cage you were staying inside. You were literally inside the conductor. Even when they failed to get a strike you could look up and see St. Elmo's fire on the sphere (they had to replace the sphere with a larger one to get rid of this problem).
It's a beautiful site. You can see the Very Large Array on the plains of San Augustine. On any normal (clear) day, you can see mountains 150 miles away. Air purer than you've ever breathed. Climbing back down, there was a thunderstorm. Static electricity filled the air and the hair on my neck stood up. I briefly wondered if I was going to get struck.