Noise Associated with Lightning


SOME years ago I directed attention in NATURE to a swishing sound that is sometimes heard when a flash of lightning is very close to the observer. I had at that time never heard the sound myself. I heard it, however, very distinctly on the night of Aug. 29–30. I had been expecting a flash to come close, as a very active storm centre had been moving directly towards this spot, with steadily decreasing intervals between the cloud to earth flashes and the thunder. I did not see the actual flash, only the illumination of the garden through the open window; it was very brilliant and was followed instantly by a noise as though a shower of large water drops had been thrown on to a hot metal plate; this was followed almost instantly by the thunder. I think there was a slight interval between the swish and the thunder, but it must have been only a fraction of a second; I had been counting seconds after previous flashes, but with this one I had not time to begin to count before the thunder came. The flash must have struck a point well within a hundred yards of my room, and I suspect that it struck the lightning conductor on the house. The noise was heard by my daughter and by two other people in the house. It was also heard by two people in a cottage about 50 yards from the house; one of them likened it to a red-hot poker being plunged into cold water, the other to the sound of the arc when two electric cables are short circuited.

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CAVE, C. Noise Associated with Lightning. Nature 126, 401 (1930).

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