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When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. After a long COVID break, Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on Take it away Steve!


Before Steve takes it away I just wanted to mention that this is the 50th blog he has created for me (and all of you who appreciate weather). He brings a unique element to the page that you won't find anywhere else. I hope you enjoy and appreciate his insights and observations as much as me. Thank you Steve, a job well done!

Ball Lightning A Strange And Rare Phenomena

Ball lightning is a rare phenomena that usually occurs during a thunderstorm with a cloud to ground stroke. It has been seen floating along the ground, inside houses and barns and even inside of airplanes. It is either a red, yellow or orange color ranging in size from an orange to a basketball. Some are even larger.

They have been known to make a hissing sound. Some are silent when they disappear while others make a loud pop or bang. They can last from 5 seconds to a minute. One theory is that they are composed of a hot gas or a plasma substance.

There was one story from a London paper dated Nov. 5, 1936 where ball lightning struck a house cutting the telephone wires, burnt the window frame and then buried itself in a tub of water sitting directly under the window. Nothing was to be found in the water afterwards.

Here is a personal account of ball lightning from Iowa, no date. While outdoors during a particularly violent thunderstorm, I heard a heavy rushing noise like an extra strong wind. This sound caused me to look about and I saw a ball of fire, yellowish-white about the size of a wash tub bouncing down the dirt road. The ball traveled a little faster than one could run. I didn't see where it came from. I watched the ball travel about a city block, when it struck a small shed, maybe 10 by 12 feet in which a horse was stabled. The shed seemed to explode and the horse was killed.

I have been fortunate to see ball lightning, twice in my lifetime. The first time was when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was a late Saturday afternoon during the summer. I was watching an intense electrical storm from a west kitchen window when a bolt of lightning struck the transformer on a pole back by the alley. There were sparks and a bright flash of light. A ball of fire the size of a volleyball, came rolling down the power line into the house, exploding when it hit the fuse box in the bathroom. We were lucky there was no damage.

The other time I saw this phenomena was in the summer sometime in the mid 1960's. I was watching the thunderstorm from the living room door when a bolt of lightning struck the railroad crossing gates to the south. There was a bright flash of light and a loud crack of thunder. Within a split second, a ball of fire the size of a basketball was moving rapidly up the street in a northerly direction going through the main street intersection. It disappeared in a flash in front of the post office.

I had an uncle who told me a story about his experience with ball lightning. It was back in the early 1940's and he was tending the bar at the local tavern. An intense thunderstorm came up during the evening hours. He was watching the progress of the storm from a door facing the alley. A bolt of lightning struck the power pole by the alley. There was a loud crack and a flash of light. A ball of fire, smaller than a basketball, moved back and forth across the power line from the tavern to the pole. When it came toward the tavern, the lights went out, when it rolled back towards the pole, the lights came back on. It did this a couple of times then disappeared with a bang.

July Thunderstorm Data

The average number of days with thunder in July has been 9 over the past 50 years. Since 2000, July is averaging 1.6 days less with thunder than it did from 1970 - 1999. I have also found that during a La Nina, July sees less days with thunder. We also tend to have more thunderstorms during the weeks of the First Quarter and Last Quarter moons than during the other phases.

Other July Tidbits

My research has found that we are seeing one less day with measurable rainfall in July since 2000 compared to the period of 1960-1999. We are also having 3 more cloudy days during July since 2000. There are also 3 more clear days during the month, since 2000.

The Temperature Outlook For August

Based on a warm spring and the weak La Nina we are currently in, it looks like August will be warmer than normal.

Tornado And Lunar Phase Prediction


For you readers who saw my blog last week on tornadoes and lunar phases I was correct on the 5th day after the new moon as being one of the more likely days for tornadoes. The 5th day was the 14th, the day on which there was 26 confirmed in Iowa.

That's all for the 50th edition. On the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk.


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