January 6, 2012


Photo Courtesy of chattiekathie/morguefile
Do you know how to determine the distance of a storm from your location. You only need a simple calculation.  

What you need:  
 1) pen and paper
 2) watch or clock (if available)
 3) calculator

Here is what you should do:
1) Stay in a safe location. It is recommended that you must stay inside your home where you will do your observation. 
2)During a storm you always see flashes of lightning and hear the roar of thunders. Start counting when you see the flash of lightning. You may count the seconds in a clock or watch. If the clock is not available, count starting from "one thousand one", then "one-thousand two", "one-thousand three", and so on.
3) Stop counting when you hear the thunder. Record the number of seconds that you counted.
Photo Courtesy of johnglenn513/morguefile

4) Divide the result:
   a) by 5, if you want to get the distance in miles
      example:  If you counted 25 seconds, divide it by 5. That is 25/5 = 5.
                      Hence, the storm is 5 miles away from you. 
   b) by 3, if you want to get the distance in kilometers
      example:   If you counted 21 seconds, divide it by 3. That is 21/3 = 7.
                      Hence, the storm is 7 kilometers away from you. 
5) Continue doing the same process and record the progress. You can then monitor is fast approaching your location or it is going away from your location.

Reason Behind:
Light travels faster than sound. A leader of a bolt of lightning can travel as fast as 220,000 km/h or 140,000mph. On the other hand, the speed of sound in dry air is approximately 343 m/s or 1,236 km/h.

Lightning and thunder occur at the same time, but we see the flashes of lightning first before we hear the roar of thunder since they differ in speed. It means that the lightning is approximately one (1) mile distant for every 4.6 seconds (~5 seconds) that elapsed between the start of the flash and the sound of thunder. That is also one (1) kilometer for every 2.9 seconds (~3 seconds) that elapsed. Therefore, in order to get the distance in miles, we need to divide the time between the flash of lightning and thunder sound by 5 and divide it by 3 to get the distance in kilometers. 


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