By- Sue KILPATRICK
“Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightening that does the work.”
– Mark Twain, said to his friend Nikola Tesla, scientist and inventor in electricity
Not much thunder to the storm system that slowly made its way across the Foothills. Although very impressive for June, we only received a few brief sprinkles late Sunday and early Monday – nothing measurable. Not much weather-related coming up, except a story worth telling in light of Father’s Day approaching.
The following is historically and scientifically based about a certain father and son who lived in Philadelphia. Together (father and son bonding), they constructed a kite and went out to fly it on a dark June afternoon day in 1752.
Yes, they were Benjamin Franklin and his son William. More than “having fun” was on Ben’s mind that day. He wanted to verify his scientific hypothesis concerning the relationship of lightening and electricity. To avoid the ridicule which often follows unsuccessful attempts in science, he communicated his intended experiment to nobody but his son who assisted him in raising the kite. The trust of his son was returned in full, as they attached the kite to a silk string with an iron key on the other end and proceeded to send it up into the stormy sky. The key was tied to a metal wire that was inserted into a Leyton jar – a container for storing an electrical charge.
Once the kite was aloft they retreated into a barn to stay dry.
The thunder storm passed over, and the negative charges in the clouds passed onto the kite and traveled down the rain soaked silk string to the key and into the jar.
Because Ben was holding a dry silk ribbon, which was also attached to the key, he was insulated from the negative charges and not electrocuted.
But when he moved his free hand and touched the key, he received a shock. Why? Because the negative charges in the key were strongly attracted to the positive charges in his body, a spark jumped from the key to his hand.
Many scientists were not as fortunate and lost their lives attempting the same dangerous kite experiment.
So what was proved, some 250 years ago, when a father and son went out on a stormy day in June? Electricity. This was made evident by the electrical effect of lightening as it traveled between two objects – key and hand. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Not much significance to the weather here. Since it is June, a good dose of June Gloom seems appropriate. Coastal, valley and foothill areas can expect this annual weather pattern to linger into next week. Nothing exciting about a heavy marine layer that moves in during the early morning hours, day after day, bringing with it fog that often lingers into the afternoon. Little variation in the temperatures, with daytimes in the low 70 range and night times in the mid 50s.
Being an optimist, I must add that the Crescenta Valley is oftentimes above the fog and the breezy afternoons are perfect for flying a kite … safely.
Sue Kilpatrick is a longtime CV resident and amateur weather watcher. Reach her at