How Loud Is Thunder in Decibels (dB)?

Everyone understands about the deadly power of lightning, but have you ever deemed the potential hurt of thunder? The audio of thunder registers all around 100–120 dB when you are inside of a handful of hundred feet of a lightning strike. That is loud sufficient to result in substantial hearing hurt. Get also close, and thunder does not just alert you of danger—it becomes a risk by alone!

If you have at any time been curious about how loud thunder can get, we’ll break down what it can sound like at various distances.

What Is Thunder?

When lightning strikes, electric power releases extreme heat as higher as 50,000°F. That is practically five times the temperature of the sun’s surface!

The unexpected temperature boost around the lightning bolt produces a rapid expansion and contraction of air. That forceful movement causes the explosive thunderclap.

Lightning produces an original shockwave in an approximate 30-foot radius close to it. It’s a sonic increase developed from air relocating more rapidly than the speed of audio. If lightning strikes inside several ft of a composition, the resultant thunder can be sturdy sufficient to lead to residence harm. Soon after the very first several feet, the shock wave gets a seem wave that you could listen to in a number of techniques, dependent on the lightning strike’s distance from you and different weather conditions-related aspects.

skyline during thunderstorm
Image Credit: Boboshow, Pixabay

How Loud Is Thunder in Decibels (dB)?

Within a couple of hundred toes of lightning, thunder will seem like an enormous bang of about a hundred and twenty decibels. That is equivalent to the sound of a jet getting off, a gunshot, or an ambulance siren. At shut proximities, you may possibly also hear hissing or clicking noises. These arrive from “upward streamers”—positive particles coming from the floor that discharge static electricity appropriate before lightning strikes.

The sound of thunder dissipates and adjustments character as you go additional absent from it. Though it seems like a single substantial clap up close, it appears a lot more like a extended rumbling with several loud cracks from a length.

Why Thunder Sounds Different from a Distance

So why does the seem of thunder alter when you shift away from a lightning strike? And why is there an prolonged rumbling sound?

The audio of thunder becomes reduce-pitched as you get further absent from it. The air scatters and absorbs the high-frequency sound waves 1st. You could hear a large-pitched crack up shut, but not from a distance, as only the reduced-frequency waves travel that far.

The irregular rumbling is because of to the prolonged chain of thunder seems coming from the lightning. Although it’s only about an inch wide, a lightning channel extends a number of miles, using random zig-zagging paths from cloud to ground or from cloud to cloud. There’s a column of exploding air all around it, generating thunder at each position alongside the channel.

You are going to very first hear the thunder from the lightning position closest to you. Then, you will proceed hearing it right up until the thunder from the lightning furthest from you finally passes by your ears.

thunderstorm view from the lake
Image Credit: Presentsquare, Pixabay

What Factors Affect Thunder’s Volume?

Thunder won’t always be the same volume at a particular length, as many weather-relevant elements can amplify or dampen it. A standard illustration is a temperature inversion in an elevated thunderstorm, which can happen in colder climate. In this predicament, warm air in excess of colder surface air traps the sound of thunder around the floor, causing it to refract and bounce, hence making it louder and longer-long lasting.

Other factors that can dampen the volume and lower the distance that the seem waves vacation contain precipitation, high humidity, and varied terrain. Beneath excellent circumstances, you can hear the minimal rumbling of thunder as significantly as thirty miles absent, but in most cases, you can only make it out inside of 10–15 miles of the lightning strike. In large rain, you might only observe it inside a handful of miles.

How Thunder Can Harm Your Hearing

At shut distances, the a hundred and twenty-decibel volume of a thunderclap can cause ear discomfort and injury your listening to. Long lasting hearing damage can usually commence at volumes above 85 decibels, but it demands a certain quantity of exposure before it transpires.

The louder the sounds, the shorter the publicity time needed to hurt your hearing. It will take about 8 hours of exposure to 85 dB sounds to injury listening to, but you only need to have fifteen minutes of publicity to a hundred dB seem to endure hearing loss. Despite the fact that it is more than in seconds, the one hundred twenty-dB intensity of close by thunder can be sufficient to rupture your ear’s tympanic membrane and harm the fragile hair cells that transmit audio indicators.

thunderstorm with long lightning
Image Credit: eyeonicimages, Pixabay

How to Calculate Thunder’s Distance

The audio of thunder travels about 1 mile every single 5 seconds, so counting off the time in between when you see a flash of lightning and when you listen to the thunder can give you a tough estimate of how significantly you are from the lightning. Currently being able to estimate the length is essential for keeping risk-free from lightning throughout a thunderstorm.

Many folks recommend subsequent the 30/30 rule for lightning protection. If it normally takes 30 seconds or much less to hear the thunder from the time you see lightning (~6 miles absent), then you should keep indoors. Right after the previous seem of thunder dies away, wait 30 minutes just before likely back again exterior. Since lightning strikes are quick and sudden, it is vital to pre-program by remaining conscious of weather forecasts for your region.

Final Thoughts

There is not much you can do to shield your self from the roar of thunder once lightning strikes. But appreciating its power can help you keep aware and prepared.

Inside a handful of hundred feet of a lightning strike, the explosive drive of thunder’s seem wave is close to one hundred twenty dB in intensity. It can trigger quick and everlasting hearing injury. But by following the thirty/thirty rule and other functional security steps, you can make certain you arise unscathed from even the most severe thunderstorms.


Featured Graphic Credit score: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock