All lightning produces thunderJune 14th, 2012 at 12:49 pm by Amelia Segal under 4 Warn Weather
With summer beginning at 7:09PM this coming Wednesday it’s hard not to think about the epitome of summer weather, a thunderstorm.
By: Ryan Farrell, weather intern
“Heat lightning” is a commonly misunderstood weather phenomenon that occurs in nature. All lightning produces sound waves, given the name thunder, but often that thunder cannot be heard beyond about 15 miles. This limitation is contributed to the dampening effect that the atmosphere has on the waves in addition to absorption by topography, vegetation, low-level clouds, and buildings. This is comparable to seeing a person shouting from far away, but not being able to hear them. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t making a sound, it just means that the sound waves dissipated before reaching your ear. What is thought to be heat lightning is just lightning that is seen from a distant storm, with the thunder’s sound waves not reaching the observer.
Do you want to know an easy way of estimating the distance a lightning strike occurs from you? Since light waves travel much faster than sound waves, a “flash-to-bang” ratio was developed for an approximated distance. First, count the number of seconds from when you see the lightning flash to when you initially hear the thunder. Since 750 mph is approximately equivalent to one mile in every five seconds, five seconds of time is equal to one mile in distance. As an example, if you hear thunder 15 seconds after you had seen the flash, you are approximately 3 miles from the lightning strike. It may be difficult though during storms in which multiple lightning/thunder pairs occur immediately following one another.