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cheeky_monkey

Lots Of Lightning But No Thunder?

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I witnessed this yesterday evening here in Calgary...a storm moved just to the east of where i live..there was lots of fork lightning but no thunder???..there was no ambient noise to drown out any thunder as the outside conditions were very still and quiet. The storm was not very far away either i would say no more than 2 or 3 miles at best. Has anyone else ever witnessed this before?

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yes, I have witnessed this before here in the UK.

It seems strange, but it happens usually when the storms are elevated and the folked lightning travels horizontally. I watched a storm for hours one July evening as it pushed up from France and there was lots of spidery fingers of horizontal lightning that fingered out ahead of the storm at anvil hight. No thunder whatsoever.

i have also seen Altocumulus congestus produce lightning from ice showers high above in summer and again....no thinder.

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This was vertical fork lightning ground to cloud or vice versa not horizontal.

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Could be heat lightning, i can't write up about it because im using my phone and it will take too long but try and research 'heat lightning' via google, hope it helps! Also type it into youtube, there are plenty of videos showing what it looks like with little to thunder.

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No, it is not possible to have lightning without thunder, according to NOAA:

Thunder is a direct result of lightning. If you see lightning but don't hear thunder, it is because the thunder is too far away. Sometimes, people refer to this as “heat lightning†because it most often occurs in the summer , but it is no different from regular lighting.

http://www.nssl.noaa...ltg_basics.html

But.......

University of Florida lightning expert Dr. Martin Uman offers another explanation. "Can there be lightning without thunder? Strictly speaking, no. However, if we ask whether there is lightning whose thunder may be inaudible a relatively short distance from the channel, the answer is apparently yes." Most lightning flashes consist of multiple strokes, but some flashes consist of a single rather weak stroke with little sound production.

http://blog.chicagow...-thunder-2.html

Then:

If you see lightning but don’t hear thunder it’s probably because you are too far away. Lightning is pretty darn bright and can be seen for tens of miles. Thunder is a compression wave and will dissipate with time and distance. Under excellent conditions, thunder can be heard about 12 miles away from the lightning strike. However most of the time conditions aren’t this good and we usually can’t hear thunder any more than about 5 miles away. Likewise, if you hear thunder and don’t see lightning, it’s probably because the lightning occurred inside the cloud and was obscured by the cloud itself or rain. On average, about 85% of all lightning is intra-cloud, that is to say, it occurs inside the cloud and never touches the ground.

http://www.weatherim...-about-thunder/

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See this is the interesting thing as what i saw does not fit the descriptions above...it wasn't a hot day, far from it prior to the storm the temp was only 13c..the vast majority of the Lightning were ground strikes..to me it was a standard convective storm occurring in a cool unstable air mass which makes it all the more unusual.

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something else worth thinking about is the vertical distance to the lightning strike as well as the horizontal distance, something that seems to be forgotten when calculating how far away a lightning strike is.....here's a scenario....Elevated storm kicking out forked lightning strikes 5 horizontal miles away....the lightning strikes themselves are discharging themselves from the anvil shield, say for arguments sake at an altitude of 10K meters (about 6 miles in altitude..Using simple mathematical formula, the lightning strikes are calculated to being 7.81 miles or approx 13 km away, which could explain why no thunder is heard......

CM....another thought, is it possible somehow that your orientation to the storm was such that what appeared to be cloud to ground strikes were in reality cloud to cloud...ie cloud to cloud bolts that move away from you towards the horizon giving the optical illusion of a CG strike?.......

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I witnessed this yesterday evening here in Calgary...a storm moved just to the east of where i live..there was lots of fork lightning but no thunder???..there was no ambient noise to drown out any thunder as the outside conditions were very still and quiet. The storm was not very far away either i would say no more than 2 or 3 miles at best. Has anyone else ever witnessed this before?

For lightning to occur there must be Cb activity thus electrical discharges and hence 'noise' for want of a better word as the flash creates the thunder which we hear. Distant lightning storms often are too far away for the thunder to be heard. Your comment that it was 2-3 miles distant is hard to work out. Lighning MUST create thunder-you did not hear it but it had to be there, wind direction, distance, noise(although you said there was none to mask it)

odd mate-no idea.

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CM....another thought, is it possible somehow that your orientation to the storm was such that what appeared to be cloud to ground strikes were in reality cloud to cloud...ie cloud to cloud bolts that move away from you towards the horizon giving the optical illusion of a CG strike?.......

Nope definitely ground strikes..because one struck a radio mast..this is how i know how close it was because on google maps the mast/surrounding area to it was only a 3mile car drive away..which means it would be less than 3 miles as the crow flies to my location.

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You didn't have your I-Pod turned up too loud did you CB??!!!! rofl.gif

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That happened here during Mid-July 2009, a storm moved in from the channel and it was just lightning, which was particularly frequent and had no soundtrack, it was strange because I hadn't experienced that before, not sure what causes that effect though.

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A combination of distance and altitude, I think? A high-altitude storm will appear to be nearer (further from the horizon, anyway) than it really is, because of its extra elevation, giving the illusion of thunderless lightning?

Well that's my guess, anyway...

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Certainly does occur and I've seen/heard this happen before and this was also once asked back in 76 to one of the radio forecasters. His explanation was basically the same as below.

University of Florida lightning expert Dr. Martin Uman offers another explanation. "Can there be lightning without thunder? Strictly speaking, no. However, if we ask whether there is lightning whose thunder may be inaudible a relatively short distance from the channel, the answer is apparently yes." Most lightning flashes consist of multiple strokes, but some flashes consist of a single rather weak stroke with little sound production.

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A good video of the same thing here

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Ive have attached a photo of the type of lightning i witnessed even down to the colour of the clouds.

post-2495-0-19511300-1340048829_thumb.jp

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Could it be acoustics: like those 'dead zones' in auditoriums where a combination of echoes effectively cancels-out the sound?

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it could of been an optical illusion making the lightning seem closer or it could of been some heavy airmass between you and the storm or a warm front colliding with cooler air and the warm front acted as a noise barrier reflecting the sound of the thunder into the cooler airmass?

maybe the reverse of atmospheric audio ducting? or an atmosphere duct was letting you see the lightning closer then it wwas.

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it could of been an optical illusion making the lightning seem closer or it could of been some heavy airmass between you and the storm or a warm front colliding with cooler air and the warm front acted as a noise barrier reflecting the sound of the thunder into the cooler airmass?

maybe the reverse of atmospheric audio ducting? or an atmosphere duct was letting you see the lightning closer then it wwas.

Well there is big couple who live opposite us.rolleyes.gif

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Experienced this too during July 1976. Pretty sure it was July 4th? Still, oppressive evening, with no rain & lots of pink & orange CGs around but no thunder heard. Probably a little too far away & I wondered if the "thickness" of the air & the humidity muffled the thunder?

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Wind maybe caused the lack of sound. Wind has a direct effect between producer and listener. Was it blustery in any showers?

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I witnessed something like this in Majorca in 1997 - distant lightning providing a nice display but with no thunder audible. I expected to have at least heard faint rumbles by listening closely, but no.

Much more common in my experience is hearing thunder but seeing no lightning. I assume when this happens the bolt occurs far enough inside the cloud to be sufficiently obscured.

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We often get amazing lightning displays in the Hohe Tauren with no thunder or rain. This year summer has been a special feature. At our elevation you can seen lightning almost 360 degrees view. Most of the displays have been towards the north rather than the ususual South Tirol.

C

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Some interesting answers..however still doesn't quite answer why there was no thunder...there was no wind..it was not hot or humid..i wasn't far away from the storm...In fact because it was so still sound was traveling from a fair distance..i could clearly hear the frogs croaking in a lake which is a good half a mile or more from my house...what makes it more strange there was a storm that occurred earlier in the day that moved through the almost identical location on that occasion lots of thunder.

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Height.

I remember these types of storms from when I was a kid as they seemed to be more frequent back then. It is caused by lightning at high altitudes where the air is thinner which of course makes sound travel through it much faster so it dampens quicker especially when it reaches denser air, way before it reaches you.

These types of displays are usually caused by storms in the mid level or altocumulus castellanus. (Yes they produce lightning)

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