You probably know by now that thunder is the sound made by lightning. When the positive and negative charges in the atmosphere collide, they produce electricity we call lightning. But because light travels faster than sound, we see it before we hear it.
Thunder can also be described as a sonic sound wave because the air around the lightning expands so fast it creates a sonic ‘boom’.
When does it thunder
Anytime there is lightning there is also thunder. You cannot have one or the other…EVER.
This does not mean you always hear the thunder. Sometime the lightning is up so high the thunder cannot be heard. Other times the lightning may not be high, but it is too far away for us to hear the thunder. If the lightning is more than 12 miles from where you are, you will not hear the thunder.
To help you understand how and why you can see lightning without always hearing the thunder, stand outside in front of your house—in front of a window. Ask your parent or sibling to stand INSIDE the room which has the window you are looking at. Tell them that when you raise your hand you want them to turn the light on in that room and immediately clap their hands after they do so.
You can see the light (lightning), but because the clapping (thunder) is too far away from you, you cannot hear it. See how that works?
Interesting thunder facts
- Cumulonimbus clouds are the type of clouds that cause thunderstorms.
- Thunderstorms that come from these clouds are different from clouds that drop rain showers on us when they get too full.
- In a thunderstorm, the air and moisture is much warmer than it is in a typical rain shower.
- Hundreds and thousands of years ago, scientists thought thunder was caused by clouds colliding into each other.
- Thunder makes different sounds. Some thunder rumbles, while other thunder makes cracking and popping sounds.
- The sound thunder makes depends on the strength of the lightning and the distance between the earth’s surface and the place in the atmosphere where the lightning takes place.