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Weather Talk: No such thing as 'heat lightning'

Midsummer is the time of the year when nighttime thunderstorms are most common in our area. Nocturnal thunderstorms are common in tropical regions, but over most land areas, storms usually happen in the afternoon and evening. But in our area, the...

2653926+Lightning Clint Spencer iStock.jpg
Lightning. Clint Spencer/iStockphoto.com

Midsummer is the time of the year when nighttime thunderstorms are most common in our area. Nocturnal thunderstorms are common in tropical regions, but over most land areas, storms usually happen in the afternoon and evening. But in our area, there is a greater tendency for thunderstorms at night, especially during July and August. Lightning can be seen from great distances at night when the flash is not overwhelmed by sunlight. At long distance, the sound waves are dampened so we see the lightning but we hear no thunder, which can be a little eerie. Sometimes, lightning from a distant storm is seen as a reflection off another cloud so that it appears as a solid flash instead of a forked channel. This is what many people call “heat lightning.” But there really is no such thing as heat lightning. At least, it is not a special or different kind of lightning. It is just a reflection of regular lightning at night.

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