Heat lightning... not actually a thing

Heat Lightning
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 6:09 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Heat lightning is a term tossed around a lot in the summer. But did you know, there’s not actually such a thing?

Despite the fact a storm isn’t over your head and you can’t hear the thunder, there is a storm somewhere in the area producing the lightning. When conditions are right, mainly in the evening or at night, lightning can be seen up to 100 miles away!

So for example: if there’s a storm over Asheville and you are in Greenwood, you may be able to see the lightning from that storm. which is about 100 miles away.

It all comes down to how light and sound travel through the atmosphere. When lightning strikes, it always produces thunder. The lightning is the visible part of the strike and the thunder is the sound. But the sound of thunder only travels about ten to 15 miles away from the lightning strike. So if you’re outside of the ten to 15 mile radius, you won’t hear the thunder. However, because light travels much further through the atmosphere, you can see the light but not hear the sound when you are more than 15 miles away from the storm.

Bottom line, what is commonly, incorrectly called “heat lightning” is really just a thunderstorm well off in the distance giving you a nice light show.