Ball lightning, a fireball sometimes observed during lightnings, has remained unexplained. Here we present a comprehensive theory for the phenomenon: At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground, a relativistic electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation. The latter ionizes the local air and the radiation pressure evacuates the resulting plasma, forming a spherical plasma bubble that stably traps the radiation. This mechanism is verified by particle simulations. The many known properties of ball lightning, such as the occurrence site, relation to the lightning channels, appearance in aircraft, its shape, size, sound, spark, spectrum, motion, as well as the resulting injuries and damages, are also explained. Our theory suggests that ball lighting can be created in the laboratory or triggered during thunderstorms. Our results should be useful for lightning protection and aviation safety, as well as stimulate research interest in the relativistic regime of microwave physics.
- Pub Date:
- June 2016
- Physics - Plasma Physics;
- Physics - Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics;
- Physics - Geophysics
- 5 pages, 3 figures, presented at the 1st International Symposium on Lightning and Storm-Related Phenomena (July 2-3, 2015) in Aurillac, France