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Under the right conditions, a powerful lightning bolt can produce antimatter. File/Andrew Knapp/staff

How scary would it be if a hurricane could produce a burst of energy so strong that anything in its way would explode?

One of them just did.

Hurricane Patricia was blasting out winds of more than 200 mph — the most intense on record — when a Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew into it off the Pacific coast of Mexico in 2015.

An instrument on board recorded a bolt of lightning shooting a downward beam of positrons that erupted into gamma rays and x-rays and shot a burst of radiation into space.

Positrons are the opposing force to electrons, which are found in all atoms. Positrons literally are anti-matter and don't normally exist in the Earth environment.

When they are produced, they smash into elections. Both blow apart, creating a burst of energy so powerful that not even the explosion of an atomic bomb compares to it.

That's how frighteningly strong a hurricane can become. 

"It's an extraordinary event, and we still don't understand how it gets so bright," said David Smith, a physics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who took part in the recently released research.

Patricia must have created powerful updraft winds as well as circulating winds, said Gabriel Williams, a College of Charleston atmospheric physics professor. The drafts would be needed to produce antimatter.

"Hurricane Patricia was a remarkable storm," he said.

Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.