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WeatherTalk: Heat lightning is just regular lightning

At great distances, the sound of thunder is dampened, so that sometimes you only see a silent, reflected flash of lightning a long distance away.

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FARGO — Our Northern Plains/Upper Midwest region gets a lot of summer thunderstorms at night. Lightning from nocturnal thunderstorms can sometimes be seen from 100-200 miles away, especially when the air is storm free between you and the storm. Many times, clouds from other showers or thundershowers in between you and the storm make it so you can only see a reflection of the lightning off other clouds. At such great distances, the sound of thunder is dampened, so that sometimes you only see a silent, reflected flash of lightning a long distance away.

Many people refer to this as "heat lightning," sometimes with the misunderstanding that this is another type of lightning altogether. It is not. What some call heat lightning is really just regular lightning seen, but not heard, from a great distance.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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