can heat lightning strike you

You’ve probably heard a lot about the weather lately, and you’re probably wondering: can heat lightning strike you?

Yes, heat lightning can strike you. Heat lightning is a type of lightning that occurs when there’s a temperature difference between the air and the ground.

Heat lightning can happen in the summer months when it’s hot and sunny, or during thunderstorms when clouds are moving over the warmer ground. 

It’s kind of like how fire works, if there’s fuel near an ignition point, it will burn.

This article will cover all you need to know about how dangerous heat lightning is and how to identify one if you see it.

Does Heat Lightning Strike?

does heat lightning strike

Technically, hot lightning is not real.

While heat lightning does not strike the ground, it is still produced by the same storm activity that produces regular lightning.

The difference is that with heat lightning, the storm is usually much farther away.

It’s not just some urban legend or something that happens occasionally in the south. Heat lightning actually happens a lot more often than you might think.

The scientists who study it say that it’s probably caused by gas being released when water vapor in the air condenses into ice crystals.

That’s why it’s so common during summertime when temperatures are higher and humidity is lower.

lightning strike

You can see it for yourself if you get out on a warm night and look up at a clear sky.

You’ll notice that your eyes are able to pick out individual stars even though there are millions of them. 

This is because each one has its distinct shape!

And then one or two of those stars will turn into what looks like a small flash of light, heat lightning!

Note: During summertime, there are more ice crystals in the air and water vapor can freeze into them more easily.

Can You Be Killed By Heat Lightning?

get killed heat lightning

The short answer is: no. But it’s not a sure thing, either.

It’s a phenomenon that can be seen all over the world, but it’s especially common in the United States and Canada. 

Heat lightning is just another form of natural lighting caused by water vapor in the atmosphere.

It happens because warm air rises into cooler air and gets compressed by rising mountains or other obstructions like clouds. 

When this happens, it creates pockets of hot air that are physically separated from the rest of the sky by those layers of cooler air above it.

This process causes them to emit light at a very high frequency, so high that it can damage your eyes if you look directly at them for more than 30 seconds

It also puts out gamma rays that can damage your skin. So heat lightning shouldn’t be looked at directly or held near your face for too long!

There are still ways in which heat lightning can hurt you. It can cause burns on your skin if you touch it directly.

skin burns
Note: If you're caught outside during a storm while standing under one of these intense rays, they could burn through your clothing. 

But, Can Heat Lightning Strike You?

Heat lightning is a phenomenon that occurs when an electrical discharge occurs between two or more clouds. 

This discharge often results in a bright flash of light that can be seen by observers on the ground.

Lightning can also be accompanied by loud thunder, but less often than with regular thunderstorms.

So, can you be struck by heat lightning? The short answer is yes, you can. 

While most people are familiar with the sound of thunder when it strikes, few people are aware that there’s actually a second type of noise, heat lightning. 

thunder night

Heat lightning accompanies thunderstorms and other forms of precipitation.

It is important to know how to tell the difference between these two types of weather phenomena. They both have their unique qualities and causes.

Note: There are potential consequences if you're caught in one during your time outdoors.

What You Should Know About Heat Lightning

Heat lightning is typically associated with summertime storms.

And regular thunderstorms tend to occur more frequently during spring and fall months due to favorable conditions for developing. These conditions include storms at these times of year (elevated humidity levels). 

In addition to being more visible than regular storms, heat lightning tends to happen much more frequently than normal.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will strike every time there’s an electrical discharge. 

lightning charge ground

These electrical discharge usually occurs between clouds within an area where there hasn’t been any precipitation. 

If you’re caught in a heat lightning storm, it’s important to stay indoors and avoid exposure to open areas as much as possible; this will help reduce your risk of being struck by lightning.

So, How Do You Protect Yourself?

Heat lightning can hit you if it happens while you’re out in the open or if it hits something metallic, like a car or metal fence.

This is what causes most injuries from this type of lightning strike.

The best way to protect yourself from this type of lightning strike is by staying inside during storms and using common sense when outdoors.

Heat lightning is sometimes mistaken for regular lightning, but there are a few key differences in appearance that can help you determine which type of storm it is.

Difference Between Heat Lightning And Regular Thunderstorms

thunderstorm heat lightning difference

There are many different forms of lightning, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on two different types.

These two are heat lightning and regular lightning.

Regular lightning refers to any type of thunderstorm-related lighting that occurs in the sky during the day or night. 

This includes bolts of lighting that you may see during a storm or even when there isn’t one present (heat lightning).

However, there are several differences between these two types of lightning so let’s take a look at what they entail!

Heat Lightning

Characteristic #1: It’s Not A Real Lightning

Heat lightning is not real lightning. It’s a type of transient luminous event (TLE) that looks like a flash or streak of light in the sky.

It doesn’t always appear to be connected to clouds or rainstorms and it lasts less than half a second.

lightning cloud

Characteristic #2: It’s Usually Over 50 Miles Away

Heat lightning is caused by distant thunderstorms, usually over 50 miles away.

The light comes from the upper level of the storm clouds, where there are no raindrops to reflect it down. 

Raindrops only reflect light during heavy rain or hail storms.

Characteristic #3: It Composition Differs

The composition of heat lightning is different than that of a lightning strike caused by a nearby storm cell. 

The light from a distance seems to be brighter and more frequent than normal lightning strikes.

This is because many strikes are occurring simultaneously in one area.

Characteristic #4: It Can Often Be Seen At Night 

Heat lightning can often be seen at night.

lightning at night

This is when there is enough moisture in the air to allow for cloud formation without actual rainfall occurring at ground level. 

It may also be observed on clear nights when there are thunderstorms over other parts of the country or world.

This gives off flashes of light that appear in your area because they are so far away they don’t create any noise.

Note: The clouds that create heat lightning are not as dense as those associated with thunderstorms, and as a result, it does not rain with this type of lightning.

Regular Lightning

Characteristic #1: It Commonly Occurs During Thunderstorms

Regular lightning is more common than heat lightning because it tends to occur during thunderstorms.

Although, some may occur without rain or clouds if there are high winds in an area. 

regular lightning strike

Characteristic #2: Regular Light Flashes Are Typically Accompanied By Thunder

Regularly occurring flashes of light are usually accompanied by thunder and loud claps or crashes that can be heard for several seconds after the flash. 

The flashes can be seen in many different shapes and colors, but tend to appear as a bright white light that lasts for only a fraction of a second.

Characteristic #3: It Tends To Be More Intense Than Heat Lightning

Regular lightning is also known as cloud-to-cloud lightning or intra-cloud lightning. Sound like the roar of a waterfall.

Regular lightning tends to be more intense than heat lightning. 

But it still may not pose any danger if you are inside or away from tall objects that could be struck by the lightning bolt.

It can also be heard within a few seconds of the flash. 

intense lightning
Note: Regular lightning usually occurs during the summer months in areas that experience hot temperatures and high humidity.


If you are wondering, “can heat lightning strike you? Yes, it can. Heat lightning can strike you, but it is not common.

If you are struck by heat lightning, it is not likely to kill you, but it can cause burns and other injuries. 

If you are outside during a thunderstorm, be sure to stay away from open fields and trees, and take shelter in a building or car.