Is heat lightning real?

There’s no such thing as lightning generated by heat

8:15 p.m. in College Park, Orlando, facing southeast on Friday, June 9, 2023. (Brandon Hogan, Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Is heat lightning a thing? Kind of, but not in the sense you might think.

You’re sitting on your porch on a clear, warm summer night and off in the distance you see a flash of lightning, but you don’t hear thunder. This is commonly referred to as heat lightning, but it’s not actually lightning generated by heat.

In reality, it is just lightning produced by a distant thunderstorm. The light is then reflected off higher-level clouds, allowing it to be seen from great distances. The observer is simply too far away to hear the thunder associated with the lightning.

Typically, the sound of thunder only travels about 10 miles.

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You will notice this a lot as our daily and highly electrified sea breeze storms get going. As the storms push way off into the sea as night falls, you’ll likely see the lightning way off in the distance but hear no thunder. The skies could even be crystal clear where you are!

It’s just the same old lightning but so far away you can’t hear the thunder.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 and now covers weather on TV and all digital platforms.