Why is their heat distortion and why does it only happen in the distance?

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Why is their heat distortion and why does it only happen in the distance?

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It happens all the time, but in the distance you see the sum of all the little disturbances alone the way. When you look at a nearby object, the disturbance is too small to observe.

Hot air bends light differently than cold air because hot air is less dense.

It doesn’t only happen at long distances (sometimes you can see it near the surface of a road or a dark car, or even a grill) but it can be more noticeable as there is more air that the light needs to pass through to get to your eyes.