Cloud-to-ground lightning bolts are a common phenomenon—about 100 strike Earth’s surface every single second.
Photograph by Mihai Simonia, Shutterstock
Lightning and thunder occur at the same time, but because light travels faster than sound, we see lightning before we hear thunder.
Photograph by skystardream, iStockphoto
Get Enlightened About Lightning
FLASH! (Wait for it ... ) Craack! Every second, about 100 lightning bolts strike the earth. In the USA alone, lightning hits the ground 25 million times a year.
Lightning is a gigantic electrical spark. A spark that can be 5 miles (8 kilometers) long. It would take up to 80 million car batteries to equal the power of one thunderbolt. A single lightning flash has enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for three months!
Light travels faster than sound. That's why we usually see lightning before we hear the thunder. To determine how far away the lightning storm is from you, count the seconds between the flash and the crack.
Watch for the flash of lightning (from a safe location). Time how long it is before you hear the thunder. Divide the number of seconds by 5. The answer is the approximate number of miles away.
For example, if the thunder rumbles 10 seconds after the lightning flash, then it is about 2 miles (3.21 kilometers) away. Math: 10 seconds / 5 = 2 miles (3.21 kilometers)