June 1, 2016 by Stephen Bentley
Heat Lightning in the Philippines
I had never heard of heat lightning before yesterday. Indeed, I had never witnessed the phenomenon before. It’s a beautiful sight. I Googled it but most of the camera shots don’t really portray what I saw. This is similar to what I saw.
Even that great photo doesn’t do justice to what I saw. The flashes lasted for about 20 minutes. I was so mesmerized that I overlooked to grab my phone or the camera to record the event. No doubt there is a TV program somewhere that shows heat lightning in all its glory.
Here is another photo I found:
When it was all over I posted this on Facebook to ask a friend, a meteorological expert, about it.
I have just seen a phenomenon I have never seen before. Maybe Edward Colón can enlighten me. Okay this is what happened. It’s night time here in the Philippines about 11 pm and as usual it goes dark about 6 pm. I’m sat outside and watching the sky. For 20 minutes or so there is the most beautiful flash of bright red/orange on the horizon.
For a split second it was like seeing a beautiful sunset but in the far distance. Now, we have had many thunderstorms here lately and today was no exception. In fact every time I saw the sky light up bright red there was another white flash of sheet lightning way off to the left (I was looking south).
Never seen that before. It was beautiful.
What causes that Edward?
And here was his reply along with the photo you see above:
Thank you for relating this phenomenon, Steve. From you description, I would hazard to guess that you observed “heat lightning.” Despite the name, it has nothing to do with the thermal properties of the atmosphere but the term is coined in describing distant lightning flashes that may be partially obscured by clouds. Unlike typical storms, thunder is absent as a result of reflection and refraction of sound waves and, in some instances, the curvature of the Earth, itself, masking the sound. Effectively the observer of heat lightning resides in an “acoustic shadow” where lightning may be perceived but thunder is not.
Another friend added his bit:
When I lived in the desert in the USA I use to see this very often. Beautiful experience in the desert. I remember calling a local radio station to ask their weather department what kind of lightning it was. Like Edward Colón said he said the same thing. But he added,”Yes, it’s beautiful, but it also means someone out there is catching hell.”
I did add in answer to Edward:
The photo you attached is exactly what I saw. How common is this? And thanks for the answer.
Edward’s reply and my response are below:
Edward: It is certainly more common in areas prone to deep convective storms such as the subtropics and tropics.
Me: That explains why I never witnessed it in England ?
Mother Nature provides us with some spectacular shows. The weather is just one source of those shows but as my friend reported above, “Yes, it’s beautiful, but it also means someone out there is catching hell.”
My next question for Ed is why the orange and red glow? What causes the colors?
I love nature and weather phenomenons even though some can spell danger. And this is not the first time I have written about lightning.
It’s one of the advantages of being an expat. Things, including the weather, are different 🙂
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