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I Hear Thunder!

Yes, we will soon be hearing a lot of thunder as the monsoons are just around the corner. But what is thunder and what causes it? Let’s read further to find out!

Thunder

Any sound you hear is made up of vibrations. These vibrations create sound waves which move through mediums such as air and water before reaching our ears.

Thunder and lightning at sea

Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Thunder is the sound that accompanies lightning during a thunderstorm.  In fact, thunder is caused by lightning. When a lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground, it actually opens up a little hole in the air, called as channel. Once the light is gone, the air collapses and creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. Like an explosion, the rapidly expanding waves of compressed air create a loud, booming burst of noise. The rumbling sound of thunder is simply caused by the vibration of the air which is affected by lightning. The more common rumbling effect happens when thunder echoes off objects all around us. This happens a lot in towns and cities, where there are lots of buildings for the noise to bounce off. However, even in flat areas of land, with no trees or other objects, there is quite often a rumble as the thunder simply bounces off the ground on its way to our ears. All this echoing transforms the original ‘crack’ sound into a longer ‘rumble’! Depending on the distance and nature of the lightning, thunder can range from a sharp, loud crack to a long, low rumble.

Lightning in a city

Courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

Why do we see lightning first before we hear the thunder?

The reason we see lightning before we hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound! The light from the lightning travels to our eyes much quicker than the sound from the lightning, so we hear it later than we see it. The lightning bolts can be seen as much as 100 miles from us, depending on the height of the bolt, the clarity of the air, and our elevation.

Thunder, in comparison, has a much shorter range of detection - usually less than 15 miles in a quiet rural setting, and under 5 miles in a noisy city environment. It takes roughly 3 seconds for the thunder to travel one km, and therefore about 5 seconds for thunder to travel a mile.

FUN FACT:

The fear of thunder is called ‘Brontophobia’.

Varying sounds of thunder

Because electricity follows the shortest route, most lightning bolts are close to vertical. The shock waves nearer to the ground reach your ear first, followed by the crashing of the shock waves from higher up. Vertical lightning is often heard in one long rumble. However, if a lightning bolt is forked, the sound changes. The shock waves from the different forks of lightning bounce off each other, the low hanging clouds, and nearby hills to create a series of lower, continuous grumbles of thunder.

FUN FACT:

Thousands of years ago, brilliant philosophers such as Aristotle believed that thunder was caused by the collision of clouds!!!

Expert Advice

01
Dec

We don't grow into creativity!

It is not what we know that is important today, but what we do with it! It is our ability to analyze, think out of the box, ideate and create. We need creativity to get on with our lives. Finding that next tagline, strategy or product at work or resolving a tussle at home or even finding a quick fix to a leaking pipe!

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