Is it really called heat lightning?

Heat doesn't cause lightning so why is it called heat lightning? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick explains.

It’s that time of year, a time for heat and humidity!  That heat and humidity of summer often spells thunderstorms.  Most thunderstorms occur during the afternoon when heating is at its highest.  But on occasion thunderstorms happen at night.  A lot of the time when thunderstorms form at night you can see the lightning long before you have rain or hear thunder.

 

Dana from Spencer, WV sent an e-mail last week to tell me about how she saw a lot of lightning in the distance but never had rain or even heard thunder.  She wants to know, was the heat lightning?

 

The quick answer is yes, what you saw was what most folks call heat lightning.  But the word heat in heat lightning is a misnomer.  Technically it's called distance lightning.  The reason it's been called heat lightning is because we usually see it on warm summer nights and associate the warmth with the lightning.  You can see this lightning as far away as one hundred miles from the thunderstorm.  The reason you don't hear thunder is because sound from thunder usually only travels no farther than ten to fifteen miles from the lightning bolt.

 

Charles from Charleston wants to know how large is lightning?  Well Charles, lightning bolts are only about an inch in diameter, about the width of your pinkie finger.  It looks larger because of how extremely bright lightning is.

 

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Josh-Fitzpatrick-fan-page/362878134573

 

Twitter: twitter.com/weatherjoshfitz

 

Keep those great questing coming and post them as well as your comments below.

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