Intense elevated lightning/thunder

Feb 19, 2004
Erie IL
Does anyone know or understand why the lightning and thunder associated with elevated storms is so intense? Just this morning some elevated cells passed above the dense stratus deck and produced some incredibly wicked sounding thunder and very sharp "flashes" of lightning. I'm assuming the charge fields must be a bit different than suface based storms.
Has anyone else ever noticed this? :)
Yesterday a storm rolled through the town I live in. I was standing outside watching the clouds with a friend, and she kept saying, "Doesn't that thunder sound weird?" I listened, and it did. It sounded almost like people skating in a skating rink really fast. After listening for awhile, I came to the conclusion that it sounded weird because it was coming from higher up than usual.

My son and I were out in that too.. we noticed a difference in the thunder also ... We timed one that rumbled for over 25 seconds.... sounded very deep and rumbly instead of the strike, boom and thats it...

matter of fact i heard the same thing tonight, very long rumbles that were way up in the clouds, barely could see the flashes of lightning, thunder sounded different that high up thats for sure. pretty cool experience though.
Maybe the lightning in elevated storms is more visual.

Loudest thunder, I reckon, comes in winter storms. Winter thunder can be phenomenally loud. Reason being, as I understand it, it takes more energy for a lightning stroke to expand very cold dense air as opposed to warmer summer air. In these winter storms the 500hpa temperature can be -25c to -38C. Chilly atmosphere. :D
Actually thundersnow thunder is fairly muffled... I've never heard "loud" thunder from snow events.

- Rob
Actually thundersnow thunder is fairly muffled... I've never heard "loud" thunder from snow events.

Actually I should have qualified my meaning of 'winter storms'. I was refering to the cold advective type, which possibly only occurs in West Coast USA. They are formed by polar maritime air passing over a relatively warm ocean. Typically surface temps will be around 10C. The precipitation will be rain or hail.

I have observed cold advective thundersnow just a couple of times(snow near sealevel with thunder). Problem for thundersnow in the cold advective scenario, as the thickness drops the tropopause lowers and cb's become to shallow to produce lightning. I have found the tropopause needs to be around 7000m or higher for thunderstorms to occur in this situation.

I am guessing the thundersnow you refer to Rob, is actually warm advective thundersnow, quite a different situation. And, yes I can imagine the thunder would get quite muffled in heavy widespread snow.

Cold advective thunderstorms occur in western Europe, West Coast USA in winter, and western and southern Australiasia(where I am). :)
which possibly only occurs in West Coast USA.

Robs reply

Gotcha - that's clearly never happened due to the Great Lakes ;>

I did say possibly. I am aware that the Great Lakes environment produces convective snow showers. I wasn't sure wether these got to the thundery stage. I does suprise me though that thundersnow develops over the Great Lakes given the fact that the tropopause would be so low in such a cold environment. Thanks for the info. :D