Application Name: ThunderHunter
Description: Map the approximate position of live lightning strikes.
Publisher’s website: ThunderHunter
Version/date reviewed: v.1.2 / 7-17-11
Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.3
It’s monsoon season again in Arizona, which means thunderstorms more days than not. You probably know the standard method for estimating how far away a lightning strike is: start counting seconds as soon as you see the lightning flash, stop when you hear the thunder, then divide the number of seconds by 5 to find out how far away the lightning strike was in miles. ThunderHunter automates that process, and adds a twist: if you point your phone in the direction of the lightning flash, it will plot the approximate location of the strike in Google Maps.
Starting up the app brings you this display. The compass at upper left shows the magnetic direction your phone is pointing in, the “?” at upper right brings up very minimal help. When you see lightning flash, turn your phone quickly to face in the direction of the lightning, and tap the “eye/lightning” button.
The button will change to an “ear” icon; when you hear the thunder from the lightning flash, press the button.
You’ll get an estimate of the distance from the lightning strike in km and miles. Tap on the yellow arrow at lower left to go back to the lightning recording screen; tap on the map …
… and the app will fire up the GPS to get your current position, then plot the approximate position of the lightning strike, along with your current position (the little green man).
Other issues: Most times, the app will determine direction based on which way the phone is pointing when you hear the thunder. So you can hit the “eye” button when you see a flash in any direction, have time to point the phone at the direction of the flash, then press the “ear” button when you hear the thunder to get an accurate time and direction. On a few occasions, thought, that didn’t seem to work correctly, and it took the direction the phone was facing when the “eye” button was pressed.
Final thoughts: Nifty little app that gives you an approximate distance and location for lightning strikes. Best used indoors at a window, though, since if you can hear thunder and see lightning, you really shouldn’t be outside.