Why does the thunder from lighting last much longer than the flash?

  1. I was walking home today when I noticed that the flash from a lighting takes a fraction of a second while the sound lasts a good 5-6 seconds.
    I couldn't think of an explanation for this, except a wild guess that maybe the source of sound is a line source and sound from different points on the lightning bolt takes different times to reach the observer.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. That's most of the answer. Lightning bolts can be miles long. Sound in air needs several seconds to travel a miles-longer path. Another answer depending on your surroundings is the presence of echoes, which create additional paths.
     
  4. rcgldr

    rcgldr 7,608
    Homework Helper

    Here is a video of an unusual (for southern California) thunderstorm. There are a few instances where you see the flash and hear the thunder. At this particular location, echoes from nearby hills add to the sound.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46yPXf2DwXc
     
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