Atmospheric Electrical Phenomenon of which Little is Known
Ball lightning is a hypothetical
atmospheric electrical phenomenon, of which little is known. The term
refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from
pea-sized to several metres in diameter.
Ball lightning is a rare form of lightning in the shape of a glowing red ball, associated with thunderstorms and sometimes accompanied by a loud noise. Ball lightning is thought to consist of ionized gas.
Until recently, ball lightning was often regarded as a fantasy or a hoax, but some serious scientific discussions and theories have attempted to explain it.
This is a rare Natural Weather Phenomenon called Ball Lightning. This
video was taken in the Mountains about 15 to 20 Miles west of Boulder
Colorado while some friends and I were camping at a mountain party, we
are next to a fire so there are bits from the fire going in front of the
It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt.
Many of the early reports say that the ball eventually explodes,
sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur.
There are records of free-floating glowing balls that occur in total
absence of thunderclouds. This occurs commonly in the valley of
One recent theory suggests that these light balls (Hessdalen Lights) are
produced by the ionization of air and dust by alpha particles during
radon decay in the dusty atmosphere.
Laboratory experiments have
produced effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning,
but it is presently unknown whether these are actually related to any
naturally occurring phenomenon.
Scientific data on natural ball lightning are scarce owing to its
infrequency and unpredictability. The presumption of its existence is
based on reported public sightings, and has therefore produced somewhat
Given inconsistencies and the lack of reliable data, the true nature of
ball lightning is still unknown. Until recently, ball lightning was
often regarded as a fantasy or a hoax, but some serious scientific
discussions and theories have attempted to explain it.
Descriptions of ball lightning vary wildly.
It has been
described as moving up and down, sideways or in unpredictable
trajectories, hovering and moving with or against the wind; attracted
to, unaffected by, or repelled from buildings, people, cars and other
Some accounts describe it as moving through solid masses of wood or
metal without effect, while others describe it as destructive and
melting or burning those substances.
Its appearance has also been linked
to power lines as well as during thunderstorms and also calm
Ball lightning has been described as transparent, translucent,
multicolored, evenly lit, radiating flames, filaments or sparks, with
shapes that vary between spheres, ovals, tear-drops, rods, or disks.
Ball lightning is often erroneously identified as St. Elmo's fire.
They are separate and distinct phenomena.
The balls have been reported to disperse in many different ways, such as suddenly vanishing, gradually dissipating, absorption into an object, "popping," exploding loudly, or even exploding with force, which is sometimes reported as damaging.
Accounts also vary on their alleged danger to humans, from lethal to harmless.
Scientists have long attempted to produce ball lightning in laboratory experiments. While some experiments have produced effects that are visually similar to reports of natural ball lightning, it has not yet been determined whether there is any relation.
Nikola Tesla was reportedly able to artificially produce 1.5" (3.8 cm) balls and conducted some demonstrations of his ability, but he was really interested in higher voltages and powers, and remote transmission of power, so the balls he made were just a curiosity.
The International Committee on Ball Lightning holds regular symposia on the subject, the most recent of which took place in Kaliningrad, Russia in 2008. A related group uses the generic name "Unconventional Plasmas".