Scientists have managed to visually capture sound waves and image thunder for the first time.

Dr. Maher Dayeh, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), revealed that lighting strikes the Earth over 4 million times every day. However, the physics responsible for the process has not been understood by scientists.

"While we understand the general mechanics of thunder generation, it's not particularly clear which physical processes of the lightning discharge contribute to the thunder we hear," says Dr. Dayeh. "A listener perceives thunder largely based upon the distance from lightning. From nearby, thunder has a sharp, cracking sound. From farther away, it has a longer-lasting, rumbling nature."

People see thunder light as a flash bolt; however, there is a lot of complex process of electrostatic charges that churns storm clouds. Lightning and thunder are unpredictable and wild. Dr. Dayeh suggests that the phenomenon behind lightning and thunder can be best observed with the help of triggered events.

Dr. Dayeh also revealed that their study involved launching a tiny rocket attached to a grounded copper wire into thunderclouds. The wire offers a conductive channel and also creates a path for lightning that is predictable. Such a technique allows scientists to focus precisely on the instruments and conduct repeatable experiments near to the discharge channel.

The experiments were conducted at the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing at the University of Florida, Gainesville. The state is believed to get the most number of lightning strikes each year in the country.

Dr. Dayeh designed a big and complex arrangement of microphones for studying the acoustic signature of thunder. The study involved 15 microphones that were places one meter apart and lined about 95 meter from the launch pad of the rocket, where lighting was to strike.

Initially, the research team thought that the experiment did not work and the images captured did not reveal anything. However, Dr. Dayeh experimented with different frequencies of sound and found that the images clearing up at high frequencies.

Dr. Dayeh's technique reflects at a distinctive signature of thunder generated by the lightning strike.

Experts believe that the latest study has significant implications as it can help scientists to better understand storms and assist in improved weather forecasting.

Photo: Bruce Guenter | Flickr

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