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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TRACKING: Warm Temperatures/Monday Rain Chances/Back To Winter

No doubt about it, we have had a stretch of unseasonable warm temperatures.  A handful of temperatures record were broken across the region Saturday.

Locally, the records in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids fell just a few degrees short.

Another warm day is on tap for Sunday.  In fact, record highs across eastern Iowa are once again in jeopardy.

Enjoy Sunday, as it will be a mostly sunny day.  The warmth will continue into Monday, but we are tracking a chance for rain.  A low pressure system in the plains is going to draw in an abnormal amount of moisture into eastern Iowa.  Showers and even a few thunderstorms are possible during the day on Monday.  Another round is possible late Monday afternoon into the evening, before ending overnight.  When all is said and done, 0.25″ to 0.50″ of rain is possible, with locally higher amounts possible.

Beyond Monday, temperatures remain above average, but on a slight downhill turn.  We continue to track a potent storm system for the end of the week, that looks to bring rain, wind and even the chance for snow returns.  Stay tuned…


Posted under Forecast Discussion, Records, Temperatures

This post was written by Kyle Kiel on February 18, 2017

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Tracking Rain for the Work Week

We had a great weekend across eastern Iowa with mostly sunny to partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.  Our weather pattern turns a bit more active as we head into the work week with rain and breezy conditions.

DMA 3D FutureTrack SatRad - RPM 4km

Have the umbrella handy for your morning commute, and throughout the day Monday

A new storm is developing in the southwestern United States, and will continue to strengthen as it tracks toward Iowa.  Ahead of it, the system will be pulling in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.  Expect rain showers to begin tracking into the area from the southwest between 5 and 7 AM Monday.  The rain will overspread the area during the morning and early afternoon, before becoming more scattered by later in the afternoon and evening.

DMA FutureTrack Rain Accumulation3D- RPM 4km

Potential rainfall in eastern Iowa through Monday evening

Heavy rain is not expected on Monday, as totals will be around a quarter of an inch, with some isolated areas receiving up to a half inch.  As the low pressure tracks closer to Iowa, another wave of moisture hits us Monday night and throughout the day on Tuesday.  There could be a few thunderstorms on Tuesday, but severe weather is not expected.   With plenty of moisture available, this is the period where heavier rain could fall across eastern Iowa.  Below is the Weather Prediction Center’s rainfall forecast through Wednesday.


Potential rainfall amounts through Wednesday


The rain will wrap up on Thursday as low pressure tracks away from Iowa.  Behind the low pressure, windy and cooler weather is in store for the end of the work week.  We will be tracking another system towards the end of the week, that could bring rain and a little snow.  There’s still a lot of disagreement on timing and placement in the model guidance, so it’s something we will continue to watch closely for you at KWWL.



Posted under Forecast Discussion

This post was written by Kyle Kiel on November 15, 2015

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