Breakdown: Why thunder sometimes sounds louder when it’s colder outside

Why thunder sometimes sounds louder when it's colder outside

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Thunder, it can startle you out of bed when you are sound asleep. That thunder can sometimes sound quite louder than normal and it is all due to the season we are currently in, winter.

In this episode of the Breakdown, we explain why thunder can last longer and sound louder than normal when temperatures are colder outside.

The louder-than-normal storms are described as Elevated Thunderstorms. This means that unlike our typical summer-time type storms, these storms develop above the ground where the warm air is located and not created along the ground like what we typically see during the summer time.

The typical storms that we see are referred to as surface based storms that derive from warm and humid conditions at the surface or ground. Most storms start from the ground.

Temperatures are usually chilly but as you head up in the atmosphere it got warmer. This is called a temperature inversion. The inversion will act to keep the sound trapped near the ground. So when the elevated storms produced lightning the sound of that air expanding which is thunder, the sound is then trapped.

With typical storms, the sound waves can dissipate and propagate in all directions but the inversion kept this from happening. Inversions can also allow for waves to travel far which would explain the longer sound of thunder. It’s like popping a balloon in a closed space versus outside.

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