Q:

Why does thunder come before lightning?

A:

Quick Answer

The air surrounding a bolt of lightning heats up so rapidly that it forces the air to quickly expand, creating the sound of thunder. Lightning can instantly heat the air to over 48,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which doesn't give the air time to expand naturally.

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Full Answer

The shape of a lightning bolt and the ground terrain affect the sound of thunder. Rolling thunder is created when the shock waves of a forked bolt bounce off each other, the nearby terrain and clouds. A single boom of thunder is often the result of a single, vertical bolt. However, not all lightning creates thunder. In 1885, the Washington Monument was struck several times, but observers didn't hear any thunder.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where does thunder come from?

    A:

    Thunder comes from the rapid movement of air in a lightning bolt. Due of the speed at which lightning bolts travel, the surrounding air does not have enough time to expand. This compressed air creates a shock wave similar to an explosion, causing thunder.

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  • Q:

    Does lightning come from the ground or the sky?

    A:

    Lightning can come from the ground or the sky. It can be discharged from one cloud to another, from a cloud to the surface, from the ground to the sky or from within a thundercloud. Lightning that originates from the surface is often forked, with the tips pointing in an upward direction.

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  • Q:

    How fast is lightning?

    A:

    A bolt of lightning travels at approximately 224,000 miles per hour or approximately 3,700 miles per second. Lightning is a discharge of static electricity that has accumulated as a result of collisions between ice particles in storm clouds.

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  • Q:

    What is the difference between thunder and lightning?

    A:

    The difference between thunder and lightning is that lightning is electromagnetic energy and thunder is sonic energy. Lightning actually causes thunder by rapidly heating and expanding the air around the path of the strike, explains a Library of Congress website.

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