26 Brilliant Thunder Facts for Kids

While it is common knowledge that thunder and lightning occur together and that thunderstorms are caused by changes in atmospheric conditions, did you guys know these 26 thunder facts?

What exactly is thunder? A thunderclap is the audible discharge of energy caused by a lightning strike. However, but since light travels faster than sound, it is generally only audible afterwards.

Lightning is an atmospheric discharge that occurs most frequently during rainstorms, but also during volcanic eruptions.

Thunder Facts: 1-13

1. Thunderclaps have a decibel level of approximately 120. Three minutes of exposure can cause permanent damage to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss. In August 1771, it was reported that a Scottish laborer who was deaf for twenty years was cured after being struck by lightning.

2. Small animals like fish & frogs can be sucked up and carried along by a thunderstorm’s strong updrafts before crashing to the ground. In 1984, a six-inch-long fish fell on a London neighborhood – some of the fish were still alive.

3. The largest hailstone ever measured fell in Nebraska in 2003; it had a diameter of seven inches and a circumference of more than 18 inches.

4. What should you do if you are caught in a thunderstorm? To begin, refrain from waving metal rods or standing beneath tall objects such as trees.

5. Because dogs can hear much further than their human owners, they receive an early audio warning of an oncoming storm.

6. Each year, approximately 16 million thunderstorms occur worldwide. They are most prevalent in tropical rainforests, where they can occur on a near-daily basis.

7. These are called Lichtenberg figures, and they’re red branching, tree-like patterns that appear on the skin when high voltage electrical discharges pass over it.

8. Thundersnow is a rare type of thunderstorm in which snow, rather than rain, is the primary precipitation.

9. Astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning,) is the 3rd most common phobia in the United States of America.

10. In 1955, a thunderstorm in Belgium detonated 40,000 pounds of buried explosives from the World War I battle of Messines, with only a single cow being killed.

11. In 1977, a massive thunderstorm over New York City triggered a widespread blackout, allowing city residents to view the Milky Way Galaxy.

12. Lightning is possible during a volcanic eruption, resulting in what is referred to as a ‘Dirty Thunderstorm.’

13. You have a 1 in 12,000 chance of being struck by lightning during your lifetime.

Thunder Facts: 14-26

14. Each year, approximately 2,000 people are killed by lightning, so it is always prudent to remain indoors during storms, hence the expression ‘when thunder roars, go indoors’.

15. Lightning is one of nature’s most common and recurring phenomena. Each day, over 3,000,000 flashes occur worldwide which equates to approximately 44 strikes per second.

16. Lightning frequently destroys trees. When lightning strikes a tree, it typically travels just beneath the bark, where a layer of sap and water exists.  This layer is instantly heated and expands, blasting the bark from the tree and occasionally splitting the wood.

17. In Venezuela, there is a phenomenon known as “Catatumbo” lightning, which is characterized by almost constant lightning strikes, averaging more than 100 per hour.

18. A lightning strike’s diameter is actually quite small, about the size of a quarter! It appears much larger due to the brightness.

19. Lightning strikes have a temperature of more than 50,000 degrees! This is approximately five times the temperature of the sun.

20. Thunder is heard following a lightning strike due to the fact that light travels at a much faster rate than sound. The sound of thunder travels faster in warmer air, and slower in colder air.

21. The sound speed is approximately 767 miles per hour (1,230 kilometers per hour).

22. Thunder was believed to be caused by the collision of clouds thousands of years ago by philosophers such as Aristotle.

23. When lightning strikes a structure, it can travel through the plumbing, shocking anyone who comes into contact with the flowing water. While bathing, washing dishes, and doing laundry, individuals have been shocked or killed. Additionally, this is why indoor pools frequently close during storms.

24. While the “shelter” at your neighborhood park, golf course, or pool may protect you from the sun and rain, it can be a death trap during a thunderstorm. Unless a shelter is designed specifically for lightning protection (which the majority are not), standing beneath a wooden structure increases your risk of being struck by lightning. Rather than that, wait out the storm in your car.

25. The storm’s distance can be estimated by counting the seconds between the onset of lightning and the sound of thunder (5 seconds = 1 mile).

26. Lightning strikes from the ground up, not the other way around.

Sources: 1, 2

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