By definition, thunder is the loud noise that occurs when atmospheric gases are suddenly heated by a discharge of lightning. Thunder is also the huge crash that gets the adrenaline running through the veins, especially when it follows a lightning strike too close for comfort!
Thunder is made up of a series of sound vibrations caused by lightning strikes. You always hear thunder after the flash of lightning and with good reason.
Lightning travels at the speed of light, an estimated 186,000 miles per second or one mile in 5.3 millionths of a second. Sound waves, on the other hand, travel at a snail's pace when compared with the speed of light, only 1,088 feet per second or one mile in about five seconds.
To figure out the distance of a lightning strike from where you are, you merely have to count the seconds between when you see the flash and when you hear the thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five (1 mile is equal to approximately 4.8 seconds).
This will give you a fairly accurate estimate of the number of miles between you and the lightning strike you just witnessed. The rumble of thunder is created as your ear catches other parts of the discharge, the part of the lightning flash nearest you registering first, then the parts further away.
Thunder On-AirHow often have you been traveling down the highway trying to listen to a ball game on AM radio when the big play is interrupted by a loud crackle of static electricity? What you heard was a high frequency electromagnetic signal caused by lightning in a nearby thunderstorm.
Other elements of a thunderstorm include hail and lightning. Some of the most severe weather may occur in a microburst.
Check how storms form for more information.