Difference Between Thunder vs Lightning

Difference Between Thunder vs Lightning

Isn’t it scary when the sky suddenly becomes dark, you hear loud roaring sounds, and then see blinding flashes of light from above? Yes, it is definitely scary. In fact, lots of people have anxiety about these natural occurrences. Surprisingly, there is still a lot of confusion about the difference between thunder and lightning.

The truth is that while they are indeed different, these two are interrelated and are part of a natural phenomenon that is truly powerful. The phenomenon that we are referring to is known as a thunderstorm. We can guarantee that you will be able to tell how different they are after reading this article.

Definition of Thunder

Thunder is a loud booming or cracking sound that we hear across the sky when lightning strikes. It is a sound energy that is produced when air pockets in the sky expand and contract to create lightning. The rumbling noises that we hear are the result of a lightning strike in the air.

In other words, there is no thunder if there is no lightning. We just need to remember that thunder is what we hear, and lightning is what we see. Since light moves faster than sound, we are able to discern the lightning bolts first before we can perceive the thundering sounds.

Together, these two create a thunderstorm or a powerful surge of electricity that precedes a heavy storm or rainfall. Finally, a thunderstorm happens when warm water vapor evaporates and moves up through the atmosphere as it cools down and forms clouds. How do you properly distinguish the difference between lightning and thunder then?

Definition of Lightning

Lightning is defined as the electrical charge that is an after-effect of the collision of clouds and water droplets. Since a cloud forms when hot air containing water vapor rises up into the sky to cool down, this cloud becomes filled with protons and electrons that attract each other, generating a strong zap.

There are two basic terms for lightning. A “strike” is when lightning hits the ground as it moves, while a “flash” is what can be observed when lightning stays within the clouds. While lightning might be a marvel to look at from afar, the powerful surge of electricity that it produces is said to be much, much hotter than the sun’s surface.

Lightning strikes often target open fields such as farms or barren land or tall things like big trees or skyscrapers. This is why it is dangerous to be outside in such locations during a thunderstorm or heavy rain.

There is a way to know if lightning is close enough to cause any immediate danger. When it takes less than thirty seconds to hear the roaring thunder after the lightning flash, it means the lightning is closer than you think and that it is not advisable to stay outdoors.

Main Differences Between Thunder vs Lightning

We have laid out in a simple table a comparison that contains references, characteristics, and other aspects that you might find helpful in developing a better understanding of the topic of thunder vs lightning.

Basis of ComparisonThunderLightning
Word historyThunor as in “god of storms”Lightning or to “make bright”
DefinitionIs the cracking sound that can be heard across the sky as the result of lightningIs the result of the collision of clouds, which generates an electrical charge and is seen as flashes of light in the sky
Type of energySoundElectric
EffectLoud and sometimes deafening sounds that bring forth heavy rain or stormsDestructive; can sometimes cause fire and be fatal to humans and animals when hit due to its powerful electric charge
OrderAn after-effectPrerequisite of the other
Speed of occurrenceOccurs after lightning strikes because sound traverses at a much slower speed than lightIs seen first since light moves faster than sound

Difference Between Thunder and Lightning: Conclusion

To summarize lightning vs thunder, these natural phenomena generate both visual and aural representations of their occurrence and presence. This makes it easier for us to differentiate one from the other. There is no denying that they are similarly magnificent forces of nature, but we still have to keep in mind that they are not something to take lightly.