Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ball Lightning Videos

Over at Rich Reynolds UFO Conjectures, he posts a link to a ball lightning video. The lightning display is interesting and if you blink, you miss the ball lightning which certainly resembles what some have reported as a UFO. It is the second video which is much more impressive with a compilation of ball lightning videos. It can be seen here:

I suppose you could claim that some of these videos are of something other than ball lightning, but I find this explanation satisfactory. As I noted long ago with a posting about fireball and meteor videos, these sorts of things, seen briefly, could account for some of the unsolved UFO sightings that clutter up the landscape. Both natural phenomena are rare, brief, and often surprising. Seen for a second or two it is little wonder that the sightings remain unidentified.

These suggest to me that if we have sighting that lasts a second or two that we don’t bother to collect the data. The event doesn’t give the witness enough time to truly identify what is being seen and the fleeting natural of the visual simple confuses. A light in the sky, regardless of the nature of that light will not advance our knowledge unless another dimension is added. In the cases with the YouTube video compilations of meteor falls and now this one of ball lightning, we have an opportunity to adjust our perspectives.  


Larry Holcombe said...


I agree with you that short nighttime observations of strange lights are most probably prosaic in nature, ball lighting being one. I really have little regard for nighttime lights in the sky, that is unless they are observed over a period of time and do things that seem to defy the laws of known physics. That gets my interest, if, repeat if, from a reliable source.

In my recent book, that I will not name as I don't think your blog should be used for commercial purposes, I discuss a young woman, an executive with a west coast talent/media agency, who was a UFO skeptic but that had a UFO encounter that turned her into a believer.

My agent sent up a conference call with this lady to discuss possibilities for my book (nothing developed from this conversation) but she did mention her encounter. I asked if we could talk later about her experience and she agreed. Because of her schedule it took about five canceled phone-cons through her secretary before we finally got together.

We talked about a half hour and her story is most interesting.

She and a friend left work in the LA area to meet friends for a camping weekend at a lake in the central CA area, an agricultural area. It was dark and the road was void of traffic as one would expect in this part of CA. She was on the passenger side and noticed a light to her left. Her first thought was a crop duster but it was pacing their car about 20 feet off the ground. She called it to the attention of her friend who was driving. They speeded up as did the object. She noticed it was surrounded by lights. As her eyes adjusted to the lights she said it was a disc shaped craft about 30 feet in diameter. They slowed and the object slowed. They stopped and the object stopped and seemed to wobble a bit. They then took off at a speed much above the speed limit and the object did the same. As it approached a line of trees the object rose above the trees then settled back to about 20 feet above the fields. This went on for a period of time until the object shot in front of the car causing the women "to totally freak." Then the object shot up at tremendous speed and disappeared. The rest of the trip to the lake was uneventful.

I asked the usual questions: Did you notice any missing time? No. Have you ever, or has you friend experienced anything like this before? No. Have you seen anything since the incident? She replied the next night the object or one like it appeared over the lake very briefly causing the animals in the area to go berserk, but it left quickly.

I go into this because this is a woman of credibility but wants to remain anonymous because of her business position. That's an unfortunate fact with many such stories. It's also important because of the time factor, which was probably 30 minutes or more. As you stated a two or three second sighting is one thing but a 30 minute sighting at this closeness is extraordinary.

I see no reason for her to lie. To the contrary she holds a very high position and wants to remain anonymous but it's clear her experience has changed her. This was not ball lightning, this was a 30 minute experience that has changed this young woman's life. These are the things we need to investigate, unfortunately so many reliable witnesses will not speak out. In many cases, like this one I can understand their reluctance.

Rusty Lingenfelter said...

Very cool video. It would have been more interesting if for each he could have listed why it was identified as ball lightning. The videos and the description of ball lightning seemed pretty diverse. From my quick review, it seems there is more consensus around the neutrino than ball lightning.

Steve Sawyer said...

"These suggest to me that if we have [a] sighting that lasts a second or two that we don’t bother to collect the data. The event doesn’t give the witness enough time to truly identify what is being seen and the fleeting natural of the visual simple confuses."

I would have to strongly disagree that very short duration sightings of UFOs, or more accurately, UAPs, don't justify the collection of data, since it all depends on the context of such sightings, including whether there is more than one witness, how close to the observer(s) these kinds of brief sightings occurred, the descriptive nature of observational details reported of something apparently wholly anomalous, and whether there might have been more than one sighting of similar phenomena within a reasonable period of time (say within an hour or two, on the same day and/or location).

For example, if a self-illuminated object or "energy form" of some unknown kind appears within several feet in front of the observer, and what is seen is briefly stabilized so that the witness can get a clear look at what is "on display," and the witness is vetted as rational and honest, an accurate description of the morphology or behavior of what might have been observed, at least in terms of visual details, structure, and/or movement/behavior, in this kind of example, can be done within a second or slightly less.

Granted, a sighting of this CE 1 type is much less valuable than a sighting of longer duration (say several seconds to a few minutes or more), but I don't think such a brief sighting should just simply be dismissed or data not collected or attempts not made to investigate or analyze. That would be an arbitrary decision or artificial limiting of parameters, which is not necessarily objective or scientific.

It also does not depend on whether the "witness [has] enough time to truly identify what is being seen," since UAP by their nature and appearance do not normally allow an observer "to truly identify what is being seen," regardless of the relative duration of either brief or longer sightings.

Context, proximity, and specific visual details reported are the more important factors than a presumptively "acceptable" timeframe or duration, in my opinion and based on direct experience.

BTW, where you note "...the fleeting natural of the visual simple confuses," it's unclear what that means.

I'll assume you meant something along the lines of "...the fleeting nature of the visual sample confuses." While that is likely, it does not mean that some observers of very brief duration sightings, when also very nearby, are either necessarily "confused" (other than wondering what the hell they saw) or unable to provide a detailed, accurate description of the particulars of such sightings.

Stefan Fasan said...

question: what exactly is ball lightning? :)

Brian Bell said...

@ Larry -

I'm sure the woman whose story you related was witness to something, but what kind of "something" remains in question. All too often observers witness something unknown to themselves, then immediately attribute their sighting to "aliens". I've seen people look directly at landing aircraft while claiming them to be "alien spacecraft" simply because they have no idea what aircraft look like at night.

There is no proof what she saw was an alien spaceship. When people relate their stories to UFO investigators they are quickly and often silently led to believe that whatever they saw was a sign from space given by advanced aliens from another world. Hence they become "believers".

Instead of being led to "believe" she saw alien visitors, why not simply assess the incident from the position that what she saw remains unexplained....nothing more....and that multiple things could account for what she saw.

But no....see lights in the sky and boy oh boy they just got to be dem dare "alien greys"....

KRandle said...

Stafan -

Not sure why you can't look this up for yourself. "Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, spherical objects which vary in diameter from pea-sized to several meters. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Many early reports say that the ball eventually explodes, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur."

All -

I did my dissertation on the influence of belief structure on the identification of ambiguous stimuli and found that those who believed in alien visitation were more likely to identify a ball of light as a spacecraft than those who didn't. Those who believed in ghost were more likely to identify a ball of light as a ghost than those who didn't. The point here is that for us in Ufology, another report of a light in the sky that was seen for a second or two is not going to add to our knowledge. If it was ball lightning and there was no one around to see it other than the witness, then it is unidentified. If it gets close and is in sight for more than mere seconds, then something might be learned. However, to conclude that a ball of light in the sky is an alien craft doesn't do us much good...

Larry Holcombe said...


I did not mention "aliens" but I did mention UFO several times, and that is exactly what it was, at least it was to these two young women. It's an unfortunate fact that many feel that UFO means extraterrestrial craft, which as you well know, is not the case. The point I was trying to make is that I agree with Kevin, a 2 or 3 second glimpse of something, especially at night, does not generally merit much attention. However, in this case a 30 minute or longer encounter does merit additional research, if possible.

As I stated I'm very skeptical of nighttime lights in the sky unless it is something very unusual, and in this case it was certainly very unusual. If you accept their story, which I do, it seems certain that whatever it was was responding to them or their car. I should also mention that they said there was no sound that they could hear.

Another point I was trying to make is when there are solid encounters or events seen or made by responsible people, many of those people will not go public with their story, as in this case. In many cases it's justified but unfortunately it hampers legitimate research.

Brian Bell said...

Interestingly, as Kevin's dissertation and comments indicate, people are subject to interpreting something unfamiliar through an already established and preconceived lense based on past experience or belief.

This is why so many cases are subject to the scrutiny that some believers claim is unjustified skepticism.

The ball lighting videos are very interesting. If you are a ghost hunter you might conclude that some were "orbs" possessing the souls of the deceased. If an ET'er then clearly some look like glowing space craft from another world or sentient life forms manipulating our weather.

Personally, I found three clips that I would conclude are potentially black project chevron shaped aircraft (ball lighting flying in formation) and one a type of glowing insect (which I have seen before in the night sky but that remains unexplained as to what type due to its larger size).

Stefan Fasan said...

- KRandle

The question was a bit sarcastic, because ball lightning is still completely unexplained. Like in, "oh it's not a UFO, it's just ball lightning". Ball lightning is as much a UFO as structured craft. Also, "balls of light" in abuductee's homes are a pretty common thing, much more common than sightings of structured metallic craft I daresay.

So, is ball lightning an alien craft? no. Is a structured vehicle in the sky an alien craft? no. Is a little grey bug-eyed monster an alien? no.

But all should be treated equally by science, omitting the differentiation between "natural phenomena" (what exactly is that anyway?) and "obviously some sort of technology", because both can appear as one or the other... reminds me of the hessdalen lights. Sure lots of people see "night lights", but many others see structured craft around the area but those get completely ignored by the "scientists" who have erected their camps there.

Brian Bell said...

Stefan -

Ball lighting is not completely unexplained...the process by which it forms perhaps...but not the phenomenon itself.

This video compilation demonstrates how frequently it can be seen and is evidence ball lighting isn't as rare as some ET'ers would claim when rebutting official explanations.

Whether balls of light are common or not with abductees I don't know. But clearly that phenomenon remains another enigma with odd and strikingly similar connections to hauntings, demonization, occultism, and all the electromagnetic effects so common to both the paranormal and ufology.

David Rudiak said...

Brian Bell wrote:
"This video compilation demonstrates how frequently it can be seen and is evidence ball lighting isn't as rare as some ET'ers would claim when rebutting official explanations."

Perhaps you can provide a link to some scientific paper backing up your claim that ball lightning isn't all that rare or even universally accepted in the scientific community as a real natural phenomenon. According to Wikipedia article:

"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 inconsistent findings. Given inconsistencies and lack of reliable data, the true nature of ball lightning is still unknown."

Prior to that it said: "Until the 1960s, most scientists argued that ball lightning was not a real phenomenon but an urban myth, despite numerous reports throughout the world.[3]" The cited reference is to a nondocumented claim on another website that suddenly it became more accepted when several scientists on an airplane saw ball lightning drifting down the aisle.

Further: "Laboratory experiments can produce effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but whether these are related to the natural phenomenon remains unclear."

The skeptoid website takes a far more jaunticed view as to whether ball lightning is real or not: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4192

"For as many theories as there are attempting to explain it, there is no agreed-upon description of what they're trying to explain. There are innumerable eyewitness accounts, and almost nothing in common among them. For all the scientists who maintain that it's real, none of them has an accepted theory or any testable evidence..." It then lists a number of other objections to ball lightning reality, including not reproducible in the lab, lack of uniformity in descriptions of what ball lightning looks like and behaves, and not predicted under standard EM theory.

As for videos of ball lightning they make the following (undocumented) claim: "Not a single photograph or video of ball lightning exists that is considered reliable and not otherwise explainable."

Being a pure skeptic website, I suspect they go a bit overboard in dissing the reality of ball lightning, just as they do UFOs. In fact, most of the arguments against both as real phenomena are virtually identical.

Lastly, please explain how you know with certainly that ball lightning exists but UFOs (i.e. as advanced technological aircraft not made by us) do not. Please include how you can 100% differentiate between a "true" ball lightning sighting and one claimed to be a "true" UFO sighting or video (i.e., NOT ball lightning but something else).

Bob Koford said...

The "foo" fighter stories could be described by some to have been "ball lightning" I guess, but what of stories such as the one discussed by SIGN pertaining to Gorman? Here we have a supposedly "ball lightning" style object that was most definitely evasive in nature. It escaped by traveling in a steep vertical climb, and departed.

Intelligent "ball lightning?"

KRandle said...

Bob -

No one is suggesting that ball lightning explains every report of a nocturnal light. No one is suggesting that those sorts of things that persist for more than a few seconds can be explained as ball lightning. No one is suggest that Gorman's attack on a light is his attempt to intercept ball lightning. What I'm suggesting that if someone sees a light that lasts for a second or two, is in the distance, and winks out of existence, then ball lightning is a better answer than an alien craft. I do not know what some people take a posting that suggests that some, but not all, reports of a nocturnal light can be explained as ball lightning want to apply it to cases in which it clearly does not belong.

And, I believe that SIGN explained the Gorman sighting without resorting to ball lightning.

Bob Koford said...

Kevin. I understand what you are saying. I think I am getting too sensitive maybe.

Have a wonderful evening.

Brian Bell said...

@ Rudiak

David what I find interesting in your comments is that you cite a very staunch skeptic's website as your source for rejecting ball lightning as common, yet are annoyed at any such skeptic's position on UFO's.

I merely pointed out that science has yet to explain the reason for ball lighting's formation. Many scientists do agree that it is a real and bonafied weather phenomenon. Those videos demonstrate this. Do UFO videos exist that may be real? Sure...but unlike an earthly weather phenomenon the claims UFO's are extraterrestrial in nature has not been proven beyond the hypothesis.

UFO's are a very different story altogether....

David Rudiak said...

Well Brian, I see you begging the question, assuming ball lightning necessarily exists and ALL those videos are genuine videos of ball lightning.

The skeptoid site says ball lightning does not exist and ALL videos/pictures of so-called ball-lightning can be explained as something else.

Neither of you provides citations backing up these polar claims. Essentially they are hand-waving arguments, "because I said so." Obviously, both parties cannot be correct.

Now for all I know, SOME of those videos may be of some atmospheric electrical phenomenon called ball lightning, but how do YOU know that ALL of them are? Maybe some are of a bonafide UFO phenomenon. Maybe some are something else entirely, like lighted balloons. Please explain how you determined that ALL are ball lightning and none are genuine UFO sightings. ("UFOs" here meant in the same sense that the USAF originally defined the term in Air Force Regulation 200-2, 1953, i.e. some flying object of unusual shape and/or performance that can't be identified by experts and needed to be studied for national security and technical reasons.)

And please back up your claim that these videos show ball lightning to be far more common than Ufologists supposedly admit and thus supposedly capable of explaining a large number of UFO reports. (This is obviously what you are insinuating.)

Considering approximately 8% of the populations of the U.S. and U.K. in recent polling believe they have seen a UFO (or roughly 30 million people), that would make for many millions of "ball lightning" sightings to explain even a fraction of these. (Even throwing out the usual mundane suspects like airplanes, balloons, planets, birds, satellites, etc.)

I seriously doubt you would find "many scientists" who would support such a claim (i.e., millions of ball lightning sightings in the past half century or so just in the U.S. and U.K.). I think it is generally agreed that even if real, such sightings are much, much rarer than that, probably by 2 or 3 orders of magnitude, thus quite incapable of explaining more than a very tiny percentage of true unknowns.

Joe said...


I studied particle physics and what you suggest is exactly how experimentalists operate.

Case in point: The discovery of the Higgs boson. The massive particle accelerator at the LHC smashes protons together. This happens billions of times over the run of the accelerator. The number of particles that come out is simply astronomical. There is no way for us to analyze all of the data. So what is a scientist to do?

We simply ignore some of the events. We choose those events that have a low signal to noise ratio for finding the Higgs. Those events we throw away very well could be great indicators of the Higgs, but if we cannot easily differentiate between the signal and all of the noise, then that event is essential useless as it tells us nothing.

So we restrict our observations to those events where it is easy to differentiate the Higgs signal from everything else. And sure enough, the LHC collaboration found what we think is the Higgs particle.

In summary, I'd like to commend you on some good scientific method. Restrict the observations to those where it is easy to identify a signal. It is not saying a ball of light lasting 2-3 seconds is nothing, it is saying that there is too much noise in the data to draw any useful conclusions.

I at times think we should even go so far as to exclude all observations of balls of light and focus only on objects with non-luminous structure. This would REALLY throw out a lot of noise. But even in particle physics, you can end up throwing out too much data.