Lightning and Thunder

Type of Lesson: Experiment

Time Needed: 10 minutes

Standards Addressed

MEGOSE EAW1 Describe the atmosphere.
MEGOSE EAW2 Describe weather conditions and climates.
MEGOSE EAW3 Describe seasonal changes in weather.
MEGOSE EAW4 Explain appropriate safety precautions during severe weather.
MEGOSE EAW6 Describe patterns of changing weather and how they are measured.
MEGOSE EAW10 Explain and predict general weather patterns and storms.

Quick Summary of Lesson

This lesson shows you how to figure out how far away a thunderstorm is.


Just yourself
Maybe a calculator if you want!


It takes 3 seconds for sound to travel 1 kilometer (5 seconds to travel 1 mile).
1. The next time a thunderstorm comes your way, look out your bedroom window and watch for lightning. When you see a lightning flash count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Use the above calculation to figure out how far away the thunderstorm is.

2. Example: You see lightning flash across the sky. 15 seconds later you hear thunder. How far away was the lightning bolt?
Answer: 5 kilometers away

Notes to the Teacher

This is obviously not an activity you can plan to do ahead of time...because you can't plan when a thunderstorm will be. It is a good little activity that ties math and science together that is good to have on-hand.

Need More Information? Try Using Windows to the Universe

Please use these links for further ideas or more information:
The Earth's atmosphere
The science behind this activity
Thunderstorm formation
Thunderstorm safety
Types of thunderstorms

Last modified prior to September, 2000 by the Windows Team

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