AM radio and Lightning experiment

This past week my daughter and I were traveling in the car and there was a storm rolling through the area. I decided to have her do an experiment with listening to lightning (not thunder). It works better when you are not moving but it can be done while moving in your car. We changed the radio to the AM and went to the very bottom of the frequencies. Tried to find an area with no broadcast and then waited.

When lightning strikes it emits light, sound and radio waves. Those radio waves are close to the AM radio frequency and will create sound on the radio if you are listening.

On our whole drive home we watched and listened. While driving we encountered other objects that produced or interfered with the radio on the AM radio. Those were outdoor signs, trees (picket-fencing effect sounds like the audio is being turned on and off). and the biggest one large powerlines. The lightning created heavy static while it lit up the sky. You could even hear lightning that you couldn’t see.

Next time there is a storm nearby break out an old AM radio and have fun listening to lightning.

Check out a brief description of “Sferics,” or radio waves from lightning here.

Check out A Brief History of Lightning detection here

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