Remember what Tyutchev did: "I love a thunderstorm in early May! When the first spring thunder ..." From time immemorial, people perceived thunder and lightning as a manifestation of the anger of the Gods, and, somewhere deep inside us, this superstitious fear of this phenomenon still sits. How does science today explain why thunder thunders?
It turns out that water vapor that forms clouds accumulates electrical charges, which form a significant potential difference between the earth and the clouds.
The air between them plays a kind of dielectric role in a huge capacitor. When the electrical charge becomes critical, lightning occurs, which discharges the cloud to the ground. And when a discharge occurs, lightning strikes the ground in a split second, heating the air on its way to a temperature of thousands of degrees Celsius. We hear vibrations of air in places where lightning passes like thunder. A rolling sound is obtained due to the fact that the speed of sound is not great, and the length of the lightning is sometimes several kilometers. Therefore, lightning will strike the ground a long time ago, and only after a few seconds we will begin to hear a prolonged sound of thunder reaching us from various layers of the air along the path of the lightning.
And you know that knowing the time elapsed between a flash of lightning and a thunderclap, you can roughly determine the distance at which a thunderstorm is. The speed of light is several orders of magnitude higher than the speed of sound; it can be neglected and only the speed of sound, which is about 330 meters per second, can be taken into account. That is, if thunder was heard 3 seconds after a lightning strike, then about a kilometer before the thunderstorm. As a rule, thunder is heard at a distance of 15-20 kilometers, thus, if an observer sees lightning but does not hear thunder, then the thunderstorm is located at a distance of more than 20 kilometers.
And everything is so simple, you ask, but where is the mysticism? The point is that scientists still cannot fully explain one important question: how electricity accumulates in the clouds and a potential difference arises. There are assumptions that the ionization of the atmosphere for the passage of the discharge occurs under the influence of high-energy cosmic radiation.