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Map Lightning Strikes With ThunderHunter

Application Name: ThunderHunter

Description: Uses the lightning flash and succeeding thunderclap to map the location of lightning strikes in real time

Publisher’s website: ThunderHunter

Cost: Free

Version/date reviewed: v.1.2  /  8-10-11

Phone/OS: Droid X / Android 2.3


Android Market (mobile app only)
Android Market (browser)

It’s “monsoon” season here in Arizona, which means that more days than not, there’s a good chance of thunderstorms. ThunderHunter uses the delay in seeing the lightning flash and hearing the thunder to calculate approximately how far away a lightning strike is. If  you point the phone in the direction of the lightning strike, it uses the phone’s built-in compass and GPS to plot the approximate position of the strike.


Starting up the app gives you the screen above; the compass in the upper right is live, and shows you the approximate compass direction your phone is pointed. When you see a lightning flash, quickly swivel the phone to point in  the direction you saw the lightning hit, and tap the button with the “eye/lightning” icon …


Now wait for the thunderclap; when you hear it, tap the button with the “ear/lightning” icon …


Since light travels almost instantaneously, but sound travels much slower (about 300 meters / second), ThunderHunter uses the difference in time between the flash and the thunder to calculate the distance. The arrow icon at lower left returns you back to the first screen, to wait for another lightning flash. The button at lower right takes you to a Google Maps view …


… where it uses the calculated distance and the orientation of the phone to plot the location of the lightning strike (cloud/lightning icon);  your current position is plotted as the “green man” icon. The GPS will fire up to get your current position,  then turn off to minimize power use. Use the “arrow” button to go back to the previous screen.

Other issues: Don’t worry about not having the phone pointed in the right direction when the lightning hits. ThunderHunter uses the direction you’re facing when you tap the “ear” icon after hearing the thunder, so as long as you point the phone in the direction you saw the lightning before you hear the thunder, the direction and position will be plotted correctly.

Final thoughts: Clean, simple, fun, does what it’s supposed to. Most comparable apps only calculate distance, ThunderHunter goes the extra step and plots the position. Recommended. I will say that if you can see lightning and hear thunder, you should find a safe place to sit out the storm. Lightning can strike without warning as far as 10 miles away from the storm’s central location.

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