Why does the sound of thunder last several seconds even when lightning lasts for only fraction of a second?
This is because the different parts of a stroke are be very different in distance.
is obviously wrong. Which walls or mountains are the reflectors of those echos? Which rooms do the reverberations?
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I have always assumed it could be put down to a small set of causes:
Add to that the fact that most strokes are in fact multiple discharges, and you can hear sounds that last much longer than the observed light.
I have not gone to the trouble of taking precise data, but my impression is that the rumble tends to be longer for strikes from further away, suggesting that the last two points are the dominate effect.
Other things to look for include
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The 3D shape of the lightning channel over many kilometers of extent can be teased out of three simultaneous sound recordings made from three different spots. The coding is similar to that which produces CAT scans, very abstruse, lots of matrix algebra. Similar systems are used to localize gun shots in urban areas using microphone networks.