Mythbusters, Weather Edition: Heat Lightning

It’s time to dispel a weather myth!

Myth: Heat lightning happens on warm summer nights without the presence of a thunderstorm.
Truth: Heat lightning does not exist.

I know, you’ve heard, or maybe even used, the term forever!  It’s the distant lightning, with no thunder, that you see on a warm summer night while taking an evening walk, right?  Wrong!

All lightning originates from a thunderstorm. At night, it is easy to see the lightning from great distances (as far away as 100 miles under optimum conditions from tall storms that reach up to 50,000-60,000′!). The sound of thunder does not travel as far as the light from lightning, as sound dissipates with distance. However, just because you don’t hear thunder does not mean there isn’t a thunderstorm. If you see lightning, there is always a thunderstorm associated with it.  Check your favorite radar source in the direction you saw the lightning from. We guarantee there will be a storm out there somewhere!

Distant lightning, commonly referred to as “heat lightning.” Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Do you have a suggestion for another edition of “Mythbusters, Weather Edition” or want us to check into whether something you have “always heard” is true or just an old wives’ tale?  Drop us a line on our social media channels (listed below) or comment on this blog!  We’ll try to include your question in an upcoming edition.  Be sure to include your name so that we can give you credit for your question!

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