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 Changes on the way Changes on the way
The cloud bands around Mt. Rainier are a sure sign of changing weather conditions. These images of Mt. Rainier were taken Thursday evening around 7:30pm with a Nikon D3000
and a 200mm telephoto lens. The dark spots on the 1st image is flock of birds (not dirt on the lens).
YouNews Wednesday morning sunrise Wednesday morning sunrise
Grabbed a few images of Mt. Rainier between 6:30am and 7:30am
before the smoke from the fires rolled back in.
YouNews Bremerton Ghost Bremerton Ghost
While conducting a basic ghost hunt on the USS Turner Joy, we captured what appears to be a face floating in the air.