How far can the sound of a thunder travel and does the distance vary with where lightning strikes?

Dear Tom,

How far can the sound of a thunder travel and does the distance vary with where lightning strikes?

Thanks,
Valerie
Schaumburg

Dear Valerie,

Thunder is the sound produced by lightning and generally cannot be heard more than about 15 miles from the nearest point of the lightning bolt, though the upper limit of audibility can, at times, approach 30 miles. The distance that thunder can be heard is related to the precipitation that is occurring with rain, snow and fog often reducing the range. Intense rain or snowfall can cut that distance to just a few miles. Sound travels faster in warm air, so when a temperature inversion is present, with warmer air above the cooler surface, if there is a cloud to ground lightning strike, more of the faster moving sound waves are refracted to the ground making the thunder sound louder.