Why does thunder always come after lightning? Have you ever counted the number of seconds between lightning and thunder to see how far away a storm was? If you have, then you were doing a linear-relationship math problem using time and the speed of sound!
Why It Matters
Seeing a lightning bolt in the sky and hearing a boom of thunder are two results of the same storm event. This event is a huge electrical discharge between charged regions in the clouds and on the ground. So why do we see lightning before we hear it? It’s because light travels a whole lot faster than sound. In just one second, light travels 186,282 miles, while sound travels only about
Imagine that you saw a flash of lightning and then counted one-mississippi, two-mississippi, three-mississippi… BOOM! How far away did the lightning strike? Well, if the sound of thunder travels at an approximate rate of 0.2 miles per second, and it took 3 seconds to get to you, then it must have traveled a journey of about
See for yourself: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/distance.htm
Learn more about lightning, thunder, and the speed of sound with the following link. Then consider the questions below.
- Is the speed of sound always the same?
- What kind of relationship do atmospheric temperature and the speed of sound have?