SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – A flash you may see but what you miss is the crash of the thunder. This is known as heat lightning.
Heat lightning is a phenomenon that is associated with a thunderstorm whether or not you see the storm.
Many people think that heat lightning is a specific type of lightning but it is actually the light produced by a distant thunderstorm.
So, why is there no thunder or clouds in the area when heat lightning occurs?
The thunderstorm that produced the flash of light is so far away that the sound of thunder doesn’t make it to where you are. Light travels faster than sound, and sound dissipates the more distance it covers.
According to the National Weather Service, the sound of thunder can only be heard for about 10 miles from a flash of lightning.
They also mention that objects like mountains, hills, trees, or even the curvature of the earth can prevent you from being able to see the actual flash from the lightning. This means that heat lightning is actually the flash of lightning being reflected off the higher-level clouds of the distant thunderstorms.
Heat lightning is sometimes observed to have a reddish tint to it. This happens due to the spreading of blue light. Blue light is a color in the visible light spectrum that can be seen by the human eye. It is also a short wavelength, which means it creates higher amounts of energy.
So, heat lightning is an actual phenomenon that is and always will be associated with a thunderstorm off in the distance anywhere from 10 miles away to 100 miles away. You will see the flash from it but won’t hear the sound of thunder due to sound dissipating the farther it travels up to 10 miles. Once it reaches around the 10-mile mark, you will stop hearing the rumbling or cracking sound of thunder.