How Fast Does Lightning Go?

Tools

By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - Lightning bolts move at incredible speeds. As for the exact speed, while researching the question on the Internet, we've found conflicting answers, ranging from the speed of light to several thousand miles per second.

But the best answer we've had so far is from Bruce Steo, who says lightning actually goes at variable speeds, because it is not just light, but electron plasma moving through charged air. Its can depend on air conditions, but the typical lightning bolt moves at 224,000 mph -- or about 3,700 miles per second.

However, the light you see from the lightning obviously travels at the speed of light, which is roughly 670 million mph, or 186,000 miles per second.

Thunder travels much slower -- at the speed of sound, which generally is about 760 mph.

Thus, you can figure how far you are from the lightning strike by timing the pause between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder.

Every 5 seconds equals one mile in distance. So 10 seconds between seeing the bolt and hearing the thunder means you're 2 miles away.

Your Photos

YouNews 8yr Pure Athleticism, Talent and Heart 8yr Pure Athleticism, Talent and Heart
My son Keoni Bananola Lamar is 8yr old. The video is when he was 6yrs. He started doing flips on a trampoline in his grandma back yard when he was 5yr. From the first time he got on the trampoline I knew he was fearless.
YouNews Sunset on Rainier Sunset on Rainier
As my friend and I were headed back from an adventurous day of hiking up Summit Peak and Summit Lake in the Carbon river area of the park, we came into a little clearing just in time to see a beautiful sunset on Mount Rainier and the lenticular cloud that had just formed just above it.