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Does Lightning Suck?

Yeah, I know it's a strange question. We had a real intense electrical storm go over the city tonight, and a bolt of lightning made a connection with a sign post less than half the street down from us. Immediately after the flash, and only milliseconds before the thunder came, I noticed a kind of "sucking" sound in the air above.

I've only been close enough to a bolt one other time to hear this, and wondered if anyone else has ever heard it. Is the sound possibly produced by the air rushing back into the near vacuum produced along the lightning channel?

John
VE4 JTH
 
If anything, I thought lightning would blow. I've always noticed a strange sound right before a really close lightning strike. I'm not sure I could describe it tthough
 
Usually any sound preceding the main blast of thunder (that is not simultaneous with the flash) is the thunder from the secondary branches, which can extend quite close to the ground away from the main channel. These can produce a whole spectrum of sounds depending on how close you are, but are usually a sizzling, crackling or loud tearing sound followed closely by the louder thunder from the main lightning channel. Your sound might have come from a situation like this, where your location (marked by the arrow) was right under a branching network that got very close to the ground.

branchthunder.jpg


Some close strikes will have a clicking or hissing sound coming from power lines and other objects occuring simultaneously with the flash (but not after it). It's not exactly known what this is, but there are often secondary induced sparks on some objects nearby that could create a sound. Since your sound came after the flash, this wouldn't be the case here, though.
 
I have heard on a number of occasions a "clink", a high-pitched whine, like a fingernail tapping a Champagne glass. It doesn't last long, a fraction of a second. I do not know what this sound is, but I have been curious about it for a long time. If I hear that sound...a close CG is coming fast.
 
Sometimes I hear a "whoosh" or quick "whip" sound occuring simultaneously with a nearby lightning strike, the thunder is usually very loud after that. I like how tall metal objects buzz when a storm is nearby, time to get the hell outta Dodge, lol.

To get back to the original question, how in the heck can you ask if one of Nature's most amazing phenomenon sucks!!?? It doesn't suck, it's totally mondo-cool! LOL :)
 
I've heard St. Elmo's fire discharge many years ago on Mt. Evans that sounded like the slurp water makes going down a drain entraining air -- a sucking sound.
 
Sometimes I hear a "whoosh" or quick "whip" sound occuring simultaneously with a nearby lightning strike, the thunder is usually very loud after that. I like how tall metal objects buzz when a storm is nearby, time to get the hell outta Dodge, lol.

To get back to the original question, how in the heck can you ask if one of Nature's most amazing phenomenon sucks!!?? It doesn't suck, it's totally mondo-cool! LOL :)
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Mondo-cool, LOL! :D Love that expression, Dave, and I totally agree. I'm sure that Susan would agree with you, too.

It's interesting how this wide variety of sounds are heard near the strikes. You've got to wonder what causes them.

John
VE4 JTH
 
Lightning struck my parents house (as I was out chasing oddly enough) in Minnesota while my bro and his friend were home. At first I didn't believe them when they said the sound was almost like a whine and they thought they heard "clicking" sounds too. Not sure what the lightning struck from my bro's account it almost sounded like he was on drugs LOL. I'm waiting for my day to experience a lightning strike within 50 feet of me (may have happened while I was sleeping once), as long as the lightning doesnt strike me.
 
I have heard on a number of occasions a "clink", a high-pitched whine, like a fingernail tapping a Champagne glass. It doesn't last long, a fraction of a second. I do not know what this sound is, but I have been curious about it for a long time. If I hear that sound...a close CG is coming fast.
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I once read a Usenet post from a guy who worked inside of a small radio station that was stationed under a large (many hundreds of feet) antenna. When lightning struck the tower, which was obviously grounded very well so that he was in no danger, he would also hear a strange clicking or popping sound in his head. He theorized that it was the massive burst of RF directly stimulating the auditory nerve.
 
...sounded like the slurp water makes going down a drain entraining air -- a sucking sound.[/b]

The Van De Graaff generator produces this sound on a person's forearm just before a spark jumps. A similar sound is produced from corona discharge from fingertips. The VDG produces a whole host of sounds from corona and spark discharge sequences. I'll post a clip on here sometime.
 
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