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Name: Owen D.
Status: student
Age: 5
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 8/30/2003

What makes a thunder cloud and how do they make the noise?


Thunder-clouds are just another kind of storm-cloud. They do not make noise. In fact, clouds cannot make noise because clouds are just bunches of very, very, small water drops kind of floating around in the air. The drops are too small to see, but when enough of them are gathered together, they make a cloud you can see. The noise you hear from a thunder-cloud is the sound made by lightning that is happening in the storm.

ProfHoff 721

Dear Owen-

Thunder clouds grow from smaller cumulus clouds when the weather conditions are just right. Thunder is heard after a lightning strike. Sometimes you cannot see the lightning, because of rain or some other obstruction. And lightning is caused by the raindrops rubbing against each other and water vapor in the clouds, and creating a big spark.

Wendell Bechtold

A thunder cloud is one that is large enough to produce lightning.

The most recent evidence (just this year) suggests that the noise of thunder is produced by the splitting of air molecules (nitrogen and oxygen mostly) into atoms by lightning energy (an explosion much like an atomic bomb). This is a new idea; it was thought before that the sound of thunder was produced by the heating and rapid expansion of the air as the lightning went through it.

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

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