A rare atmospheric phenomenon called ‘heat lightning’ bewildered residents in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal during the early hours of this morning.
The soundless flashes of lightning that blanketed the skies from around 3am were witnessed by people in the area who later reported the peculiar storm on social media, Zululand Observer reported.
According to AccuWeather meteorologists, this type of storm is lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for the sounds of thunder to be transmitted.
“It is a storm happening a significant distance from an observer, who is only able to see the flash and not hear the thunder,” the site says.
The typical sound of rumbling thunder is muffled either by long distances or by a blocking, mountainous terrain.
Because thunder travels much slower than lightning, it becomes increasingly unlikely to hear thunder from a distance greater 16 kilometres.
“The distribution of hot and cold temperatures around a thunderstorm causes sound waves to be bent, or refracted, upward into the sky rather than toward the ground where an observer may be listening,” the site explains.
– Caxton News Service