Why do Thunder and Lightning go so often together

It suddenly becomes very cold, dark and ominous. The birds that were singing happily a few moments before, now as one, fall silent.  There is something in the air, a smell of sulphur.  Suddenly in the distance, you see a streak of lightning, brilliant white or blue flashes that light up the surrounding area.

This is followed, a second or two later by the crash of thunder that reverberates in the air.  And there you have it.  But why should it be so in the first place? Why does thunder and lightning so often go together?  To understand this question you must first have to understand what is going on within a thunder cloud.

Within a thunder cloud

Ice particles, millions of them are thrown together, colliding against one another in a frenzy of activity.  The collisions of the frozen raindrops causes small electrical charges within the cloud itself.  These charges magnify until the cloud or clouds are completely filled with electrified ice particles. The ice particles that are positively charged all rise to the top of the cloud, while those that are negatively charged { electrons} make their way to the bottom of the cloud.

Because there are positive and negative charges that occupy the same space within the cloud they will then attract one another {opposites attract}.  This attraction causes a positive charge to build up underneath the cloud {the ground}, Because the ground has an electrical charge of its own, that charge will then be attracted to anything that sticks up, such as, people, trees, houses, hills, mountains etc.  The charge coming down from the cloud suddenly meets with the charge shooting up from the ground, the two points connect and BANG!  A lightning hit.

Lightning itself is hotter than the surface of the sun around 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The colour of lightning seems to range between bright clear to white/yellow,  through to blue in some cases.  The background plays a big part on what colour lightning is.


You cannot have thunder without lightning for one cannot exist without the other.  In fact, thunder is actually caused by lightning.  Channels are opened up in the air when lightning travels from a cloud to the ground.  All these channels are are little holes in the air, when the air collapses back into the hole {caused by the lightning disappearing} it results in a sound wave being created.  This sound wave is known as thunder.    Why do we see lightning before we hear the thunder?  The answer to that is simple, light is the fastest thing known and obviously travels much faster than sound.

You can actually use thunder to tell how far away an oncoming storm is.  Simply count  down the second between seeing the lightning, and hearing the thunder. The number of seconds counted you divide by 5,  this gives you the answer of how far away the storm is {in miles} from where you are.  For example if you count 10 seconds, and then divide by 5, the answer in miles that you are looking for is 2, the storm is 2 miles away.