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Fibreglass antennas with the radiator inside are apparently more prone to lightning strikes. Is this true, and is there a scientific reason as to why?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you please edit your question to include some quotes from whatever sources you found this claim in? $\endgroup$
    – Kevin Reid AG6YO
    Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ Kevin Reid, I cannot provide a literary source. The origins of which I base my question are colloquial. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it's based on claims that are surprised and can't be sourced. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 22:21

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I have heard the rumors that fiberglass antennas attract lightning. The theory is that the wind blowing across the fiberglass generates a static charge that attracts the lightning. However, there is not any real evidence of this.

An alternate theory is that they do not attract lightning, but lightning strikes cause a air pressure shock wave (which is obvious, that's what causes thunder), and the shock wave from strikes that are merely near by can physically shatter the fiberglass. (Or, as I heard described, causing the remnants of the vertical antenna to become "horizontally polarized" on the surface of the roof.)

As far as I know, neither of these alternatives have been seriously studied either for statistics of occurrence or tests for actual cause.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've read something about the corona effect, must find that article again. Then there's the possibility of a static build up, like you say with the outer material with friction from the wind and, I'll add, nearby precipitation. However, what if it were capacitance related? We have a dielectric and a wire inside. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think for a capacitance effect, you'd need two wires, like a shield and a center conductor. And then the charge would be contained anyway. I can't see this having any effect on lightning either way. And if it did, all those insulated wires out there would also have issues. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ The other plate for a capacitive effect, if you will, is the atmosphere. Humidity, precipitation. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 22:12
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    $\begingroup$ @FrancisArchibald in essence, we can play the "but I can come up with a reason" game for a long time, but it really won't help us get to the truth. I'd like you to consider Occam's Razor here: the claim that one type of mast is special and gets struck be lightning more often is a special assumption that needs to be justified through verifiable observation or reasoning from first principles; if it can't be, it shall be assumed wrong: Find the way to explain reality with the least amount of surprising assumptions! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ Marcus: I agree. My point in answering was to document the rumor and its more likely alternative and underline that it is a (very common) rumor rather than to just close this unaddressed. I've heard tower climbers swear that fiberglass antennas attract lightning, but never had anyone come up with any evidence. $\endgroup$
    – user10489
    Commented Dec 19, 2023 at 12:34

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