Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Rain and Thunder
Name: David C.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

I have always wondered why it oftentimes seems to rain harder immediately following a thunderclap. After reading explanations of the water-producing thermodynamic possibilities in the questions-answered section, it occurred to me to ask. Does rain get shaken out of the atmosphere, is it thermodynamically produced, or is it just coincidence that the rain falls more densely after the thunder? Thanks.

Dear David-

The observation that the heaviest rain occurs after thunder is mostly coincidental. The heaviest rain in a thunderstorm does fall near the strongest updraft part of the storm, and this is also where the lightning and thunder is produced. So it is likely that thunder may be heard during the heaviest rainfall in a thunderstorm.

Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO


The heavier rain after or just about the time of more frequent lightning is probably not a coincidence. Research on lightning frequency and rainfall suggests that the action of hydrometeors (rain and hail) being carried around in the thunderstorm (in updrafts as well as downdrafts) creates electrical charge buildup in the clouds. The more active the storm and the more hydrometeors there are, the more electric charge is built up and the more frequent the lightning is. The more hydrometeors there are, the greater the likelihood of heavy precipitation, although it may occur after most of the lightning, as a downdraft has to set up or the updrafts decline to allow the hydrometeors to fall towards the ground.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Click here to return to the Weather Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory