Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Heat Lightning

Last night a thunderstorm rolled north past Roundtop. It was eventually close enough that I heard a few claps of distant thunder, but my first inkling a storm was near were flashes of lightning that momentarily brightened the darkened woods. Around here we still call this "heat lightning," though pretty much everyone now knows the lightning isn’t caused by heat. It’s just a term we still use because there isn’t another term to fill the gap.

Probably years ago people did think flashes of lightning from a distant storm that never got closer were caused by heat. But just because we now know better doesn’t mean the term has disappeared. "I saw heat lightning last night" someone will say, and heads at the diner will nod knowingly and a conversation will start. So what else should we call it? Can you imagine someone saying, "I saw distant lightning from a thunderstorm last night?" and have that be a conversation starter? It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? So the term persists, despite its inaccuracy.

So, I had heat lightning last night when I took Baby Dog for the last walk of the day. I have found that heat lightning is most noticeable in a cloudy sky, likely because the flashes of light bounce off the clouds and are then seen over a greater distance than would be the case in a clear sky. I expected Baby Dog to notice the event, but she didn’t, nor did she bark when the storm eventually got close enough so that thunder rumbled through the woods. Perhaps she is finally growing up.
My first photo today is a view readers to this blog will have seen before. It's the bottom of my driveway and looking up towards the cabin. Spring is blossoming out so quickly that in only a few days the view already looks a lot more lush than it did just a few days ago. The second photo is of a blooming dogwood tree. There's no denying that spring is a beautiful time of year.

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