How to Track Lightning

When there is a thunderstorm, did you ever wonder how far away lightning is? Well, there is a safe and easy way to find out.


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    Look outside for a flash of lightning. They can happen very quickly and suddenly, so be very attentive. If the bright light hurts your eyes, look through a translucent curtain to dull the impact of the light, or focus your eyes away from the window so the lightning flashes in your peripheral vision.
    • Note that faraway lightning will be much more difficult to spot, so keep a steady watch. If you sense the storm is not close to you (e.g. faint thunder) watch more carefully for lightning bolts.
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    Once you see the lightning, begin counting right away. Start a stopwatch, count in your head, or use the stopwatch on your phone. Do not stop.
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    Stop counting once you hear a roll of thunder. Listen carefully- distant thunder may be difficult to hear. If you have been counting for a very long time, chances are you missed the thunder. Search for another bolt of lightning and start the process over.
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    Divide the number of seconds you counted between the lightning and thunder by five. (For example: 10 divided by 5.) If the dividend cannot be wholly divided by five, you can either round the quotient or divide to a decimal (you may need a calculator).
    • Before proceeding, make sure you didn't accidentally make a minor mistake or miscalculation.
    • If you want to find out the distance of lightning in kilometers, divide by three. (e.g. 9 divided by 3). You are likely to come across a decimal, so choose if you want an exact measurement or a rough estimate.
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    Once you have found your quotient, that is how many miles or kilometers away lightning is. (For example, 10 divided by 5 equals 2, so lightning is two miles away, or 9 divided by 3 equals 3, so lightning is 3 kilometers away.) You can do this as many times as you like, but try to space your countings a minute or two apart, otherwise you will likely end up with roughly the same result.
    • With time, the miles away of the lightning should either get smaller or larger, depending on whether the storm is moving closer or farther away from you. If you get roughly the same number for a extensive period, check your work to make sure you didn't have any miscalculations.


  • To really see how the storm and lightning moves, write down the time and distance of lightning each time you count.


  • Do not go outside to do this. Stay inside and watch through the window.
  • Don't do this to the extent that it harms your eyes. The bright light of lightning is very intense and too much of it can hurt your eyesight.

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Categories: Storms