What is Ball Lightning?

Ball Lightning

What is Ball Lightning?

Ball lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon that is characterized by the appearance of a luminous, spherical object that moves through the air.

The exact nature and cause of ball lightning is not well understood, and it is considered one of the least studied and most enigmatic meteorological phenomena. Some theories suggest that ball lightning is created by an electrical discharge in the atmosphere, while others propose that it is a plasma formation that is sustained by an unknown energy source.

Despite numerous reports of ball lightning sightings, the phenomenon remains poorly understood and is the subject of ongoing scientific investigation.

Can Ball Lightning kill you?

Ball lightning has been reported to cause injury and death in some cases, but the occurrence of such incidents is relatively rare.

Ball lightning is generally considered to be a relatively weak form of lightning, and it is thought that its ability to cause harm may depend on various factors such as its size, intensity, and proximity to people.

However, due to the unpredictable and poorly understood nature of ball lightning, it is difficult to predict when it might pose a danger to people. If you encounter ball lightning, it is recommended that you stay away from it and seek shelter in a secure location.

Is Ball Lightning similar to any other phenomenon?

Ball lightning has been compared to a number of other atmospheric phenomena, including St. Elmo’s fire, sprites, and blue jets.

These phenomena are related to ball lightning in that they are all associated with electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere, and they are often seen as luminous, transient events.

However, ball lightning is distinct from these other phenomena in several important ways, including its spherical shape, its longer duration, and its apparent ability to persist in the air even when it is not in contact with any electrical conductors.

Despite these similarities, ball lightning remains one of the most poorly understood meteorological phenomena, and more research is needed to fully understand its nature and behavior.

5 Weird Weather Phenomena that raise the eyebrows

willy willy dust devil
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In this video we take a look at the science behind 5 of the weirdest weather phenomena.

Willy willy

Also known as dust devils, Willy willys are whirlwinds that can reach over 1000 feet in height. It is the dust and debris that get caught within them that makes them visible. They mainly occur in desert and semi-arid areas, where the ground is dry and high surface temperatures produce strong updrafts. In Navajo culture, willy-willy were thought to be the ghosts or spirits of the dead

Brocken spectre

A Brocken spectre is the large magnified shadow of an observer, cast onto clouds or mist. They are most often seen on mountain tops, when a person stands above cloud level. They can create the illusion of a giant shadowy figure seen dimly through the mist. Shifting water droplets in the cloud or mist can also make the shadow appear to move. Often the spectre will be combined with a circular ‘glory’, appearing as a rainbow halo around the shadow’s head.

Lenticular clouds

Usually formed behind hills or mountains, where the air is stable and winds at different heights are blowing from a similar direction. The wind is interrupted, the airflow undulates and condenses into these disc-shaped clouds. They can sometimes be seen as far as 60 miles downwind of the mountains that formed them. They are also believed to be one of the most common explanations for UFO sightings.


Visible in the sky in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, usually near the poles, auroras are mysterious and beautiful natural light shows. They are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun and gas molecules such as oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many cultures have myths relating to aurora – In Finland it was believed that the lights were caused by the firefox, who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky.


Haboob began as a name for intense dust storms over the Saharan desert, coming from the Arabic word meaning “strong wind”. It is now often used to describe powerful dust storms that occur in arid regions throughout the world. Haboobs can grow to be around 10,000 feet high and the strongest can travel over 100 miles. They are caused by strong wind, flowing down and out from thunderstorms or strong showers. These strong winds stir up a thick wall of dust, which can move at up to 60 mph.

A great example of an Ice Spike in Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham

Ice spike

A good mate of mine just posted these extraordinary photos on Facebook of an ‘Ice Spike’.

“This morning I had never heard of an ice spike and if I had ever seen one, would have had no idea what it was and shrugged it off as something strange. A post on another site had a photo of one happening in the great outdoors of Northumberland along with an explanation of the strange event. That reminded me that yesterday, in my small beaker used for inaccurate assumptions of rainfall measures, I had noticed a frozen stick shape protruding above the top. It must have been 6-8 cm long. I shrugged it off, wrongly presuming that by chance (a million to one ?) an icicle had fallen from the roof some 4 feet away and several higher and landed, unbroken in the beaker !?! On reading said post, I went outside to find this …”

Michael Simmons, Newton Aycliffe

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia brings red gloom to Durham

picture of Hazy red sun caused by forest fires

“Southern Ireland was battered by gales, but the strange weather that hit the british mainland was unlike anything i’ve ever experienced. At 2pm in the afternoon, the sky had a strange orange hue, and it was dark – REALLY dark. The streetlights were on and cars were driving with full headlights. It was almost completely still, but a smoky smell hung in the air. This was afterwards attributed to a combination of forest fires over the Iberian Peninsula and Saharan dust, all dragged North on the Eastern side of the depression centre. Within 90 minutes the sun was out and it was a different world.” – Dave O’Hara

A bright red sun glows in the sky over Durham, October 16 2017. It was the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987. The sun had an eerie red cast because southerly winds ahead of an ex-hurricane Ophelia had drawn air all the way from the Iberian peninsula, where forest fires had been raging.

The photo above was taken in Gilesgate in mid-afternoon, but it was so dark that street lights came on automatically and drivers had to use their headlights to see. There was a strong smell of burning in the air. All birds had fallen silent, believing night was upon them.

A satellite picture clearly shows the red dust and smoke embedded into the weather front approaching the UK.

The month had 3 new daily records in the Central England Temperature record. 17.2, 16.4 and 14.9C on the 14th, 16th and 25th respectively. The maximum temperature at Gilesgate was 19.8 degC on the 13th of the month, with the minimum of 2.8 degC on the morning of 30th resulting in the first ‘car windscreen scrape’ of the Autumn.

Met Office : Ex-Hurricane Ophelia 16 October 2017