Thunder Classifications (wink)

Dec 10, 2003
Great Plains
Thought that I would list my personal list of thunder types. Hope you can relate to each one!


The Cannon starts off as a loud BOOM without warning slowly waning off to light rumbles.


The Ripper rips through the atmosphere like a meteor shot before exploding into a thunderous roar.


The Dudshot is a tremendously bright lightning flash followed by a dissapointingly weak thunder.


The Bassbolt specializes in low note production. Windows, plates, and your chest all vibrate with the Bassbolt.


The Soother is light, comforting thunder normally of the intracloud variety.


The Jumper is an intense, powerful clap of thunder that causes one to literally jump out of their skin. The Jumper is responsible for many phenomenon such as babies crying and cats hiding under beds.


The Energizer is an intensely long-duration thunderclap. Seemingly unending, this goes on for a lengthy period of time.


The Crackler starts off with a large crackling sound which makes one believe that its going to be a doozy of a thunderclap...and then diminishes to nothing.


A nice rumble of thunder with no distinctive characteristics.


RapidFire is a series of sticatto booms interspersed with rumbles. RapidFire is a particularly fearful type of thunder in my opinon.


The Sonic comes from a large, branched bolt where the thunder comes from many different skypoints to your ears.

What I do is add MEGA to a descriptor if it is an unusually intense variety. For instance: MEGA-JUMPER would be the ultimate Jumper thunder. Also, I add MINI- if it is an obviously weak variety.

Ah SDS. Dont you love it. :)
You missed the best one! :wink:


(Flash-Bang). The type you hear at the same time as see. Read: Get back in your vehicle!

Well, I heard quite a variety of thunder tonight. 8)

Many were plain jane, dudshots and sonic rumbles

I also heard some soothers too, unfortunately no cannonballs. :(
I'd say that for cannon, jumper, flang to the description you might want to add the sound of all the car alarms in your neighborhood going off assuming you are at home.

But yep, the FLANG as the first bolt always gets you back in the car quickly.

Mega Rapid Fire are scary. I can remember a couple of instances of violent staccato CG storms at / near night that sounded like warning shots. Closest thing I can think of that it reminds me of it is the latest 'War of the Worlds' movie where Tom Cruise and his daughter in the movie are in the backyard watching the clouds pound the nearby area with lightning bolts. Believe me it spooks you out to follow near one of these storms.

The picture in my avatar at Olney a couple of years ago featured some bolts that were somewhat rapid fire sound as I recall. I was actually under the meso / wallcloud as those bolts were striking down all around me. Probably not the best place to be.

LOL - nice terms.
My favorite two are 1) the soft, tranquil kind that gently wakes you up in the morning...saying "it's going to be a chase day" and 2) the air-ripping POP! from an electric blue CG that hits across the street, and sets all the car alarms off. Nature at her finest :)
Originally posted by Susan Strom
My favorite two are 1) the soft, tranquil kind that gently wakes you up in the morning...saying "it's going to be a chase day"

??? central Oklahoma they wake you up saying "your wave's come out mis-timed and everything's blown up in your face!" :p


Originally posted by Karen Rhoden central Oklahoma they wake you up saying "your wave's come out mis-timed and everything's blown up in your face!" :p



Yep I can remember waking up tired at motels in Oklahoma / elsewhere after daylight to the sound of thunder and rain after a previous days chase. Open the door look out and exactly as you said. As I recall I'm usually not totally awake so it takes me awhile to figure out what is actually going on. I finally figure out - 'I gotta get the heck out of here and get into position'.
How funny. Early morning thunder in the desert is a promising sign that the monsoon pattern is active and things might pop in the evening.

That's right, in the Plains it means you slept in too long :)
On a slight tanget to this topic, it is an interesting subject that most chasers have come up with their own terms to describe storm phenomena. Our semi-official chaser vocabulary is a melting pot of words that we all have come up on our own after witnessing what we seek to describe with our own eyes and ears. It would be interesting to see the origin of all of the terms we use today and which chaser came up with which ones.

Almost everything we see has an 'official' AMS term that is almost never used anymore. Just like we develop new expressions in everyday language, our chaser-coined terms have really taken hold. This does have a drawback, as a lot of times we don't fully understand what we're seeing and our new terms perpetuate some inaccuracies. I've been guilty of this from time to time as I've learned over the years.

Lightning especially exemplifies this. Lightning vocabulary is a mishmash of terms, with the same word meaning different things to different chasers. Some terms may not be actually describing what is happening. For instance, distiguishing positive and negative strokes is not as clear-cut from purely visual/audible observations. Another example is the term 'staccatto lightning' that, depending on who you ask, means anything from a highly branched cloud-to-ground strike to a CG with a single, quick return stroke.

I've traditionally held to the terms outlined by the lightning research pioneers Dr. Uman and Dr. Orville, but I too had my own terms to desribe lightning before I really started looking at it seriously.

On that note, I would recommend Dr. Uman's book 'All About Lightning' as almost required reading for any chaser! The book gets into some great techincal details and really gives you a picture on what is happening.

Here are some of my own 'originals'. I don't use these anymore due to the fact that more popular terms have been coined:

'Travelling lightning':
What the chaser community now universally calls 'anvil crawlers' or 'crawlers'. The AMS glossary calls it 'rocket lightning'.

'Tree lightning':
An 'anvil crawler' oriented to the observer in such a way that it appears like a tree sprouting up out of the cloud.

'Sonic Boomer' Thunder
Called 'cannonball' thunder by some chasers. A loud, low-frequency thunder sound from a powerful discharge.
I would add the RIPPLER, a RIPPER that you can hear moving in opposite directions like a ripple pattern. Tickles the ear.

I like the word FLANG, what I've called GUNSHOT before. The neat thing about FLANG is the audible electrical sizzle before the trebly crack of close thunder.
The energizer sounds like the Plains variation of the ridge rumbler. When I lived in TN, sometimes the thunder would sound like it got trapped between ridges and would produce a low rumble until it finally got out of the valley.
Think flangs and jumpers are my personal favorites 8)
My favorite is the Canon or as I call it the Mortar. It's like being in a war zone. It gets you in the gut, real deep and loud. My second favorite is the close range Chainsaw Coffee Can. Theres nothing deep about it, it's sounds like metal tearing metal.
My wife comes up with her own words/terms (as she has very little knowledge of meterological terminology):

Floofy on itself - a thunderstorm is beginning to have the characteristics of a mesocyclone

And even when I tell her the correct terms, she refuses and screams at me, "FLOOOOOOOFFFFYYYYYY!!!!" :roll: