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Scientists are able to extract sound of a two black holes merging from the data they collected without actually hearing it, but we don't know how it actually sounds, that's just a representation of the data in a sound format. That made me think, given that we can collect the data of a lightning (and we know what it sounds like), can we replicate or even predict with a high certainly the sound a thunder will make before we actually hear it?

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That made me think, given that we can collect the data of a lightning (and we know what it sounds like), can we replicate or even predict with a high certainly the sound a thunder will make before we actually hear it?

Yes, but not for that reason.

I want you to think about the sound of thunder. It starts high and then gets lower and lower in frequency. Ptchowwwwww.....

That's because the higher frequencies travel slightly faster. But only slightly, so to even hear this effect the strike has to be some distance off.

So you can very accurately predict the sound simply by measuring the distance to the lightning, how long it lasted, and how much total energy it had.

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  • $\begingroup$ Furthermore, think about the difference between between the sound of nearby lightning (ptchowww, as you write) and distant lightning, which sounds more protracted and gumbly. The pitch difference is probably because the low-frequency sounds have a longer penetration length in the atmosphere; the timing difference probably has something complicated to with echos off of the terrain. I think you'd learn a lot by trying to reconstruct a lightning strike from a recording of its thunder, but I think most of what you'd learn wouldn't be about lightning. $\endgroup$ – rob Apr 11 '19 at 19:22

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