Does “Heat Lightning” Exist?

The answer is simply, no.  It is a common misconception, and don’t worry, even I thought heat lightning was a “thing” when I was younger.

A lot of times in the summer months, we get several pictures of lightning sent to us with the caption “heat lightning”.  People refer to this as heat lightning, because the sky is mainly clear, and they can see flashes of lightning in the distance, and think it is caused from the heat and humidity.

The truth is pretty simple: All lightning is associated with a thunderstorm.  You are simply seeing the tops of the thunderstorm clouds (and associated lightning) from a distance.  The picture above was taken in Cedar Falls, looking southeast toward storms that popped up in the overnight hours in parts of Tama and Benton counties.  You can see the moon in the right hand corner, indicating the clear sky over Cedar Falls.

So why can’t you hear the thunder?  You are only able to hear thunder if you are within 10-15 miles from a storm.  You can see lightning up to one hundred miles away from a storm (the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound).

That being said, if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the thunderstorm, you are close enough to be struck by lightning.  As the saying goes, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.”


Posted under Lightning, Photo, Weather Trivia

This post was written by Kyle Kiel on July 7, 2017

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“Matthew” and “Otto” Retired as Hurricane Names

Hurricane Matthew

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will retire the names “Matthew” and “Otto” for Atlantic tropical systems, meaning they will no longer be assigned to future storms. These will be the 81st and 82nd names retired for the Atlantic basin. This happens when the tropical cyclone was very deadly or causes a devastating amount of damage during its lifespan.

Matthew will be replaced with the name “Martin” and Otto will be replaced with the name “Owen”. These changes will occur in 2022, when the 2016 list of names is reused. There are 6 lists of names, one list for one year. One list is repeated every seven years. For more information on Atlantic tropical system naming, click here.

For more information on Matthew and Otto being retired, click here.

Matthew forecasts and advisories.

Otto forecasts and advisories.

For other tropical cyclones in the Atlantic that have been retired, click here.


Posted under NOAA, Weather History, Weather Trivia

This post was written by Rachael Peart on March 27, 2017

First Day of Summer 2016

The first day of summer is this week.


The summer solstice marks the beginning of astronomical summer and is the time when the earth is farthest away from the sun. The position of our planet in its orbit determines the astronomical (ie, what we see on our calendars) seasons. Those dates change from year to year. The summer solstice is also the longest day of the calendar year.


Meteorological seasons are much easier to remember. For meteorologists, the seasons begin on the 1st of June, September, December and March. Meteorological summer always begins on June 1st and indicates the beginning of the three average warmest months of the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere – June, July and August.

Not only is Monday the first day of summer, there is a full moon in the morning. The last time there was a full moon on the first day of summer was in 1948 and the next time this happens will be 2062.

Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon


Posted under Astronomy, Education, NASA, Weather Trivia

This post was written by Rachael Peart on June 20, 2016

Weather Trivia Week #2

Which layer of the atmosphere contains the weather?

A) Thermosphere (14.3%)
B) Troposphere (38.1%)
C) Mesosphere (21.4%)
D) Stratosphere (26.2%)

The correct answer is B) Troposphere


Posted under Weather Trivia

This post was written by Schnack on May 3, 2008

Weather Trivia Week #1

Question: Which of the following devices is used to measure cloud height?

A: Anemometer (16%)

B: Psychrometer (7%)

C: Celiometer (76%)

D: Thermometer (1%)

Answer: C: Celiometer

A ceilometer determines cloud height and levels in the atmosphere. The ceilometer (pronounced se-lom’-i-ter) uses invisible laser radiation to detect cloud levels.

An anemometer is the device for measuring wind speed.

A thermometer is the device for measuring temperature.

A csychrometer is a device used to measure relative humidity.


Posted under Weather Trivia

This post was written by Schnack on April 26, 2008