Sound travels fastest through warm air and conditions such as temperature inversions can help to amplify the sound of thunder (source). Conversely, during a thundersnow event the falling, and accumulated, snow can act as an acoustic suppressor (source). Originally I was thinking that the loudest thunder at ground levels would simply be at higher elevations, however the atmospheric conditions mentioned above, and others that I'm not aware of, have me wondering where the loudest thunder would actually occur.

  • $\begingroup$ Is google not helpful? I found several sites just googling "loudest thunder recorded" (no quotes). $\endgroup$
    – user967
    Nov 26, 2017 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ I had no luck googling it. There were some youtube videos, which I admittedly didn't watch, and one q&a site where an answer of 234 db was given with no source. If you have any reliable information please post as an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user11318
    Nov 26, 2017 at 18:20

2 Answers 2


The loudest thunder will be heard where the lightning bolt hits, and this could be about 160 dB for the strongest superbolts. Good places to observe and hear such bolts are on the Mediterranean Sea in winter or the Andean Plateau.

The loudness next to the channel of triggered lightning strikes is well correlated with the peak current and measurements indicate that this is as high as 142±3 dB for a peak lightning current of about 20 kA. Lightning superbolts have been observed with peak currents of almost 1000 kA, so we might expect their peak loudness to be 10 log(1000/20) = 17 dB louder, i.e. about 160 dB. Such superbolts are most common over the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Andean plateau, but also occur elsewhere.

  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. Now wondering just what superbolts are. Gotta think they're positive strikes (based upon the height)? Certainly seems all the rage in friends who chase has been sprites and such in recent years... amazing how much we don't know about lightning yet. $\endgroup$ Oct 17 at 7:14

Thunder 1 mile away-117 dB Thunder 1/2 mile away-121 dB Lightning strike just meters away from you-125 dB

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome Nathanael, do you have a source/basis for these numbers by chance? $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2018 at 1:19

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