17 January 2014
New Scientist: Until now, evidence of ball lightning—luminous spheres that can occur during thunderstorms—was purely anecdotal. And because the phenomenon is rare and unpredictable, it has proven hard to study. Last year, however, researchers in China managed to record a ball lightning event while they were observing a thunderstorm with video cameras and spectrographs. Their observations support a theory formed in 2000 by John Abrahamson of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand: The glowing orbs result from lightning striking the ground and vaporizing silica in the soil; when it recombines with oxygen in the air, it glows.