pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 247–262

Ball lightning as a radiation bubble

  • G. A. Dawson
  • R. C. Jones


A model for ball lightning is presented and its properties discussed. The model is that of a microwave radiation field contained within a plasma dielectric sphere, resonant at a frequency much greater than the electron-molecule collision frequency. Calculations are made of the energy stored in the microwave field, the electron temperature, the rate of energy loss due to ionization, and the effects of recombination. It is concluded (a) that a self-consistent set of conditions can be obtained only when the neutral density within the sphere is much lower than atmospheric, and (b) that the microwave field strength required is of the order of 109V/m. Under these conditions the radiation pressure becomes comparable to that of the atmosphere; the second case investigated is when these two become equal. It is then found that this ‘radiation bubble’ appears to satisfy the requirements imposed on energy storage and dissipation, recombination and resonant frequency. The electron density in such a bubble is found to be typically 1011 cm−3 and the stored energy typically 103 Joules. A discussion is given of some of the problems associated with the model-formation, stability, neutral number density, and the problem of hydrostatic equilibrium.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. A. Dawson
  • R. C. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Atmospheric Physics and Department of Electrical EngineeringThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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