A brief history of ball lightning observations by scientists and trained professionals

Alexander G. Keul*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


With thousands of eyewitness reports, but few instrumental records and no consensus about a theory, ball lightning remains an unsolved problem in atmospheric physics. As chances to monitor this transient phenomenon are low, it seems promising to evaluate observation reports by scientists and trained professionals. The following work compiles 20 published case histories and adds 15 from the author's work and 6 from a Russian database. Forty-one cases from eight countries, 1868–2020, are presented in abstract form with a synthesis. The collection of cases does not claim to be complete. Six influential or notable ball lightning cases are added. It is concluded that well-documented cases from trained observers can promote fieldwork and stimulate and evaluate ball lightning theories. Scientists who have not reported their experience are invited to share it with the author.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalHistory of Geo- and Space Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • ball lightning
  • history of ball lightning observations

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 107 Other Natural Sciences

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