Happy New Year EGB trainees! While watching the ball drop at the stroke of midnight in New York City last week, I was reminded of an interesting phenomenon every Extreme Ghostbuster should be familiar with -- Ball Lightning. Evidence of Ball Lightning, primarily in the form of eyewitness accounts, has been documented for hundreds of years. But, until recently, the bulk of the scientific community has denied the existence of this rare and fantastic weather phenomenon. As you might have guessed, I was not one of those ignorant skeptics. In my years as an OGB, I had been called to the scene of quite a few supposed "ghost" sightings only to discover that the supernatural occurrence was more likely a Ball Lightning strike. It's easy to be deceived, as descriptions of Ball Lightning sound a lot like a few nasty Class 8 Free-Roaming Vapor cases I've researched.
What is Ball Lightning? Well...nobody can answer that question definitively. But, we do know how Ball Lightning differs from regular lightning. During a typical thunderstorm, large pockets of warm and cold air collide, electrically charging the millions of minute dust particles suspended in clouds. When a cloud can no longer contain its (at least) 10,000 volt charge, the energy is discharged into the ground below. To put this amount of electricity in perspective, the power lines that run into an average home are only 110 volts! Under certain conditions, this process also occurs in the reverse direction - emanating from the ground and terminating in the clouds. We see the release of this energy as intensely bright, jagged flashes in the sky -- lightning. Thunder is merely the highly amplified "pop" of the static electricity released.
The same forces are acting on a smaller scale when you walk across a carpeted floor in socks and then touch a doorknob. The floor is one air mass, your socks are another, your body is the cloud. When your finger gets close enough to the metal knob for electricity to jump to the metal object, there is a split second when you can see, hear, and feel the minute jolt. The greater the charge, the farther it can jump. It's miniature lightning!
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