What is lightning and thunder, what causes storms and what does the time in between mean?

THUNDERSTORMS can be pretty exciting when you’re wrapped in a duvet and watching from the comfort of your own home – but not so much when you’re caught outside in one.

So what exactly are thunder and lightning, and how can you find out how far away they are?

What is thunder and lightning?

Keeping tabs on the unpredictable weather in the UK is a full-time job.

If you’ve ever wondered what actually happens when a thunderstorm hits, you’re not alone.

A lightning strike is when an electrical discharge from the atmosphere is sent down onto a ground-based object.

Most lightning strikes do not touch people and the probability of being struck by lightning is very small.

Those who spend a lot of time in the elements, such as golfers, rock climbers, hill walkers and farm workers, are said to be particularly at risk of being hit

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Those who spend a lot of time in the elements, such as golfers, rock climbers, hill walkers and farm workers, are said to be particularly at risk of being hitPhoto credit: Getty

Lightning strikes around 300,000 times a year in the UK, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA).

30 to 60 people are struck by lightning in the UK each year and three – or 5-10% – of those strikes end in death.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as golferIt is believed that mountaineers, mountain hikers and farm workers are at greatest risk.If you saw lightning but didn’t hear thunder, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there, it just means it was too far away.

This is often referred to as a heat flash (or silent flash) because it’s a common occurrence in the summer.

What causes thunder and lightning?

According to the Met Office, thunderstorms “form when the atmosphere is unstable,” which happens when “warm air is present beneath much colder air.”

As the warm air cools as it rises, it condenses into water droplets and a cloud.

Under the right conditions, this cloud builds into a cumulonimbus cloud that produces thunder and lightning.

A simple counting technique can be used to roughly calculate how far away a thunderstorm is

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A simple counting technique can be used to roughly calculate how far away a thunderstorm isCredit: IslandVisions/BNPS

How to determine how far away thunder and lightning are

You can use the time between lightning and thunder to determine how far away the storm is.

When you see the flash of light, count the number of seconds until you hear the thunder – Mississippi count is recommended, only the very confident should freestyle.

For every five seconds you counted, the flash is a mile away.

This is because light travels faster than sound, so sound takes longer to get to where you are even though they originate in the same place.

The general rule is that if the distance between lightning and thunder is less than 30 seconds, it is close enough to pose a threat.

It is recommended to wait 30 minutes after the storm before resuming normal outdoor activities.

Can there be thunder without lightning?

Although they are labeled separately because of the way we perceive them, they always appear together.

Thunder is actually the sound made by lightning, so by definition you can’t have one without the other.

Depending on the distance, the sound can be a short, violent cracking noise or a slow, low rumble.

https://www.the-sun.com/news/6000197/thunder-lightning-causes-time/ What is lightning and thunder, what causes storms and what does the time in between mean?

DevanCole

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