How to calculate the distance of lightning - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

How to calculate the distance of lightning

(Source: Stock image/Raycom Media) (Source: Stock image/Raycom Media)
(KFVS) -

You see lightning. You begin to count. One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi, Four Mississippi......BOOM!

So from the time you saw the lightning to hearing the thunder, four seconds has passed. How far away was the lightning?

Most people would say four miles. Is that what you think? Well if you did, you would be wrong. The correct answer is four-fifths of a mile. So why is it not a mile per second like most people are taught? The answer is because the speed of sound is not a mile per second.

Under average atmospheric conditions, the speed of sound is about 767 miles per hour. by using simple math we can calculate how far sound travels in one second.

As we all know there are 60 seconds in one minute and 60 minutes in one hour. Therefore, in one hour there are 3,600 seconds. So if you take 767 and divide by 3,600 you get 0.21 or about a fifth of a mile per second. And that is why sound takes five seconds, not one second, to travel a distance of one mile.

See, isn't math fun!

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