A few years ago, I watched a Nova documentary about lightning (from 1995). In that episode, the scientists stayed inside a protected building and launched small rockets towards building thunderstorm clouds. Attached to the rockets were thin wires and the goal was to trigger a lightning strike and measure the results. They were able to capture a few bolts and analyze the data. Research planes have been used to study lightning storms and the information has been used to improve aircraft construction.
In a similar way, a few of the short stories in my upcoming book Fractal Standard Time deal with lightning bolts. One story in particular (tentatively titled, "Is Heaven Electric?") focuses on some futuristic daredevil inventors intent on studying the secrets of lightning from within the clouds themselves. Their "research missions" eventually lead to other less serious adventures in the next story, "Racing the Anvil Crawlers", but in both cases there is a sense of respect of the power of a bolt. This attitude changes by the end of book, but now I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back here on the ground and in our current age, lightning detection is advancing along as well as lightning prediction systems. Without buying equipment, you can often pick up lightning strikes by tuning an AM radio to the lowest part of the band before a storm comes in. Distant storms can sometimes be detected even if they are hundreds of miles away, and nearby storms usually create some pretty loud static. On some days when storms are just beginning to fire up, you can hear the static gradually increase as the storm grows in height and power. Often a rapid or sharp increase in the amount of static is a sign of powerful updrafts within a cloud. Sometimes this happens right before the anvil top forms and storm turns severe.
In the coming weeks look for some of these short stories to start appearing on Amazon. I'll probably release "Racing the Anvil Crawlers", "The Mathematician's Lawn", and "The Nanobot Sandbox" for starters, but maybe in time I'll put out another one before the full collection is released sometime this spring/summer.