Difference Between Thunder and Lightning

Thunder and lightning are two terms that are often used interchangeably in the context of weather conditions. These two terms are part of the larger concept known as thunderstorms.


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When there are harsh weather conditions we usually hear sounds and light in the sky followed by heavy rains and stormy winds. This phenomenon of sound and light during harsh weather conditions is known as a thunderstorm.

Key Takeaways

  1. Lightning is an electrostatic discharge during a thunderstorm, resulting from the buildup of electrical energy in the atmosphere.
  2. Thunder is the audible sound produced by the rapid expansion and contraction of air surrounding a lightning bolt due to the intense heat generated by the electrical discharge.
  3. Although thunder and lightning are closely related, they are distinct phenomena: lightning is the visible discharge of electricity, while thunder is the sound created by the shockwave associated with the discharge.

Thunder vs Lightning

The difference between thunder and lightning is that thunder is the sound energy whereas lightning is electrical energy. We usually see lightning before the thunder because light travels faster than the sound and is visible to us before we hear any sound. 

Thunder vs Lightning

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Thunder is the loud noise produced by the collision of clouds in the sky that can be heard across the sky. The sound is the rolling noise that is distinct and recognizable at times.

Lightning is the flash of electricity that can be seen across the sky and can result in huge destruction.


Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonThunderLightning
DefinitionThunder is the noise that we hear across the sky during harsh weather conditions.Lightning is the flash of electrical energy that is seen as a flash of light.
PhenomenaThunder is the sound produced when the cumulonimbus clouds collide with each other.Lightning is produced by the light energy given after the process of collision of particles of clouds.
EnergyThunder is heard because it is the sound energy that is produced in a collision.Lightning is seen because it is the light energy produced when water and ice particles collide.
SpeedSound of thunder is heard after the light because it has a slower speed than that of light.Light travels with a faster speed therefore we see lightning first than sound.
RepercussionsAlong with the loud noise and disturbances, thunder can at times bring strong winds and heavy rains.Lightning can very destructive at times. It strikes the tall building which can lead to the entire destruction of the building.


What is Thunder?

Thunder is the loud noise and the disturbances that we hear across the sky during a thunderstorm. Usually, these loud sounds or thunder are caused by the upward movement of the moist and warm air.

As this air moves up it cools down and compressed to form cumulonimbus clouds. The ice droplets, water, and other particles that are constituents of the clouds collide with each other to produce the sound that we hear.

Thunder is simply the sound energy that is produced by the collision of the clouds and other particles in the sky. Thunder can result in loud noise followed by the heavy rains and strong winds at times.

Thunder is usually caused by the fast expansion of gases and it causes the rumbling and creaking sounds most of the time.


What is Lightning?

Lightning is the flash of light that we see across the sky during thunderstorms. It is a phenomenon where light energy is produced by the collision of the cumulonimbus clouds and other particles such as water droplets and dust in the sky.

Lightning can also turn into a severe natural disaster when it occurs in extreme forms.

Light travels at a very high speed therefore during a thunderstorm we always witness lightning before the thunder is heard. It is the flash of electricity that has an excruciating temperature ranging up to 54000 degrees Fahrenheit.

It can result in heavy destruction of the tall buildings, towers, objects, etc. It happens because lightning has a high speed and it takes its fastest to the ground.   


Main Differences Between Thunder and Lightning

  1. Lightning is the sudden flash of electricity and light that we witness across the sky during a thunderstorm whereas Thunder is the loud noise and rumbling disturbances in the sky during the harsh weather condition.
  2. Lightning is the form of electric energy that we see in the form of light whereas thunder is the form of sound energy that we witness in the form of loud noises.
  3. Thunder can result in heavy rains and strong winds later but lighting causes much more destruction and damage.
  4. Usually, we see lightning before the sound of thunder because light travels at a faster speed as compared to sound. The average speed of lightning is 140,000 miles per hour.
  5. The temperature of the light produced during lightning is severely high which has the potential of causing damage on a large scale whereas the sound proud by the thunder is not destructive most of the time.
Difference Between Thunder and Lightning

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder
  2. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/lightning/
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