Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

The joys of thunder and lightning

31 May 2019

Here we are, the last day of autumn 2019 and it's good to be alive.

As I write this, shortly after 4am, the skies are flashing and growling with huge bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.

Although I can't smell it (damned Parkinson's) I'm sure that the air is alive with the sizzle and sweet smell of ozone.

Gusts of wind are hurling waves of heavy rain against the roof, creating an awesome din that is a constant reminder of nature's power.

But it's not (yet) cold so it's the perfect weather to say goodbye to autumn and prepare for the forecast plunging temperatures of tomorrow.

However, it's worth remembering that just a few short years ago, I would not have dared to remain connected to the internet during a weather event such as this.

I think I must have lost at least four or five modems to lightning by remaining connected during thunder storms or being caught out by a "bolt out of the blue" when I wasn't expecting it.

Of course those were the days when power and telephone lines were all strung up above the ground, providing the perfect target for lightning and the resulting huge voltage spikes it produces. Even if you weren't so unfortunate as to be the victim of a direct strike, the induced voltages caused by a nearby bolt of lightning could fry the front-end of a modem in a few brief microseconds.

As with all bursts of electrical current, a bolt of lighting produces a rapidly changing magnetic flux that induces voltages (and if there's a closed circuit) currents in nearby conductors, often with disastrous effects on sensitive electronics.

We're talking about nature's own EMP weapon!

As a result of this, I would always unplug my modems from the phone line before going to bed and in the event of a thunderstorm -- but every now and then you'd get caught out and nature would get its revenge.

These days however, things are quite a bit different.

Not only are power lines usually buried underground (where they're far less affected by these lightning-induced EMPs) but if you're on UFB then your broadband arrives via an insulator, not a conductor.

The tiny glass fiber that carries the optical signal to the box on the wall is totally immune to EMP so there's very little risk to your gear if you continue to surf the web or use Netflix in a thunderstorm. Your power feed is protected by up to a metre of damp soil and your data circuit provides no return path, even if some voltage is induced in the house-wiring.

Happy days!

I guess there's another benefit also.

I strongly doubt that anyone's satellite TV service was working this morning at 4:30am. Rain fade would have almost certainly caused the signal to drop below usable levels. Netflix, and other streaming services however, would have chugged on just fine for those on UFB.

The only real potential problem in such "weather events" now is the loss of power completely, possibly due to some transformer or substation being directly struck by lightning or suffering wind damage.

Even then, my 1KVA UPS has enough battery to last an hour or so -- and this is a great improvement also on yester-year.

Back in the day of CRT monitors, my UPS was only good for a few minutes -- the power-hungry screens sucking the life out of those tiny lead-acid batteries. Today's LED-backlit LCDs however, just sip power by comparison -- giving me at least 40 minutes of totally safe use as my UPS powers the UFB gear, router and PCs on my desk -- albeit in the dark.

Yes, now the "connected" community can finally enjoy nature's splendour without fear!

Damn... the storm has passed already. I was enjoying that!

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say in the Aardvark Forums.

PERMALINK to this column

Rank This Aardvark Page


Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines



The EZ Battery Reconditioning scam

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam


Recent Columns

Where NZ leads the world
A reader dropped me an email last week in respect to the activities of the Extinction Revolution (ER) group and in respect to the actions police were taking against them...

Solved: the mystery of static electricity
I remember being fascinated by static electricity as a young lad...

Government uses the word "compulsory"
We're told that we live in a free society...

The streaming market is getting messy
In the beginning, there was Netflix...

The proceeds of crime (hypocrisy alert)
New Zealand has an oft-used law that allows police to seize the property and assets of anyone who they "think" may have obtained those assets/property as the results of criminal activities...

Microsoft is hijacking my computer
Like most people, I have a computer that runs the Windows operating system...

Is no news good news?
As is so often the case these days, I've been up and sitting at my desk since a little before 4am...

Tourism, an asset or a liability?
Tourism is a big earner for New Zealand...

Finally, I was right
Over five years ago, I wrote a column in which I suggested that it would be a smart idea to use mesh-networks to sidestep mobile networks...

How your smartphone could narc on you
There are now probably more smartphones on the planet than people...

The weaponisation of space
Ever since the first ping was received from Russia's Sputnik satellite back in the 1950s, space has been seen as a critical element of every superpower's military activities...