Outdoor FunWeather 101

What Is Heat Lightning? What Causes Heat Lightning?

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By Joshua

Heat lightning is lightning that's too far away to hear thunder from.

Is there such a thing as heat lightning? Is heat lightning real?

Well… you’ve probably seen what people typically call heat lightning — those far off flickers of light miles away up in the clouds.

But there’s actually no such thing as heat lightning.

Heat lightning is really just ordinary lightning that is too far away for you to hear thunder from.

You see, lightning doesn’t ordinarily travel well beyond 10 to 12 miles — yet you can easily see lightning flashes up in the clouds from over 50 miles away. That’s why you can’t always hear thunder when you see heat lightning!

So why do we call it heat lightning?

The answer is probably best explained by the fact that lightning is usually seen during the warm summer evenings — when the hot conditions are ripe for thunderstorms to form.

This video shows a heat lightning storm in action:


Is heat lightning dangerous?

No, not really since the lightning you’re seeing is so far away and isn’t within striking distance of where you are.

Does heat lightning have thunder?

No, not that you can hear from the distance away that you’re seeing it. However, anyone within close range of those lightning strikes will definitely hear the thunder.