‘Heat Lightning’: Fact or myth?

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 2:26 PM CDT
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QUAD CITIES, Iowa/Ill. (KWQC) - When you hear the sound of thunder, chances are you’re also seeing a bolt of lightning.

But what happens when you see lightning, but don’t hear thunder?

You may have heard this called “heat lightning” a time or two throughout your life.

The term heat lightning is in the NOAA Glossary, defined as lightning that occurs at a distance such that thunder is no longer audible.

However, it is not an actual type of lighting.

Simply put, all lightning strikes come from a parent thunderstorm.

If you aren’t able to hear thunder but see lightning, you are located far away from the storm.

The sound of thunder only travels 10 to 15 miles away from a thunderstorm. Beyond that, it is inaudible since the speed of sound is much slower than the speed of light.

On a clear, summer night, you might be able to see flashes of lightning from a thunderstorms that is up to 150 miles away, in some cases.

If you hear thunder, you are close enough to a thunderstorm to be struck by lightning.

A good rule of thumb to remember: When thunder roars, go indoors.

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