Why was thunder so loud last night?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019 - 12:58pm

During the overnight hours many of us we awakened by the sounds of thunder. However, the question many people are asking is, “Why was the thunder so loud?!”

The line of storms moved through between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. While the storms were not considered severe, they did produce extremely bright lightning and very loud thunder across most of the County

Last nights storms were elevated meaning they had started to lift on the warm side of the approaching cold front. The air last evening had become much cooler than it was during the day yesterday. During the afternoon hours we had reached a high of 98° with a Heat Index of 103° As storms moved through the county late yesterday afternoon and evening the air became rain cooled due to a process known as evaporational cooling. The video below will explain what evaporational cooling is.

 

 

The evaporational cooling triggered whats also known as inversion last evening. Inversion is where warm air aloft traps cooler air near the ground. In doing so this refracted the sound of thunder. In a normal thunderstorm, sound waves dissipate in all directions. However, because of the temperature inversion and warm air above the ground, the sound waves were trapped near the ground.

Sound waves move faster in warm air than they do in cool air. Typically, the air temperature decreases with height. When this occurs, thunder will normally have an audible range up to 10 miles (16 km). However, when the air temperature increases with height, called an inversion, sound waves are refracted (bent back toward the earth) as they move due to their faster motion in the warmer air. Normally, only the direct sound of thunder is heard. But refraction can add additional sound, effectively amplifying the thunder and making it sound louder

I wanted to make sure to take a moment to explain why the thunder sounded so much louder during the overnight hours last evening. 

 

 

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