The app uses a technique called the "flash-to-bang" method, and it can keep you safe during rainy summer weather. The National Weather Service recommends taking cover if the time between the lightning flash and the rumble of thunder is 30 seconds or less, which indicates the lightning is about 6 miles away or closer.
The app counts the number of seconds that pass between a flash of lightning and the crack of thunder that follows it, then divides that number by five. The resulting number will tell you how many miles away you are from where lightning just struck.
This method is based on the fact that light travels much faster than sound through the atmosphere: Light travels at 186,291 miles per second (299,800 km/s), whereas the speed of sound is only about 1,088 feet per second (332 meters per second), depending on air temperature.
For metric-system conversions, the app follows this method: Sound travels at about 340 m/s, so it multiplies the number of seconds counted by 340, and you'll know how many meters away lightning struck. A three-second count, then, would place the lightning strike about 1,020 m away, or roughly 1 km.
Also use as a educational tool to demonstrate the speed of sound and the calculation method used to calculate the storms distance.
The Storm Calc experience features a stormy graphical interface and real storm sounds.