Ask Storm Team 11: What causes thunder?

Ask Storm Team 11

Tuesday’s Ask Storm Team 11 question was submitted by Wanda Tucker. She asked: “I have always heard when the thunder is extremely loud and sounds close and things vibrate it means lightning has struck something. Is this true?”

First of all, lightning is a rapid discharge of electricity. It heats the air around it up to 50,000 degrees. This hot air expands and air particles vibrate more than usual. The air then tries to cool and the particles contract. This back and forth motion leads to sound waves we call thunder.

Thunder can sound like a loud crack if you’re close enough. Otherwise, it’s more like a big rumble.

Sometimes you’ll feel vibrations and that usually happens when thunder echoes off objects around like buildings and even the ground.

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