Thunder is rated at 120 decibels, compared to a chainsaw at 125 and a car horn at 110. It is the same decibel as an ambulance siren, rated also at 120 decibels.
The loudest thunder ever recorded was 234 decibels, at the source. This is comparable to a 5.0 Richter earthquake. Thunder is loud because lightening is very hot, at 50,000+ degrees, which causes the surrounding air to expand extremely rapidly, creating the sound we hear.
The sound level of thunder (120 dB) is also comparable to sitting in front of speakers at a rock concert. In close proximity, thunder is capable of producing temporary deafness and may cause the rupture of the tympanic membrane in the ear. Thunder is also capable of causing property damage. It has been documented that thunder has popped nail-supported drywall away from horizontal and vertical wooden studs inside houses and broken glass windows.
Thunder can be so loud as to break the tympanic membrane of the ears depending on how close it is. However, the loudness of the thunder does not only depend on its proximity but also on the extent to which winds are pushed apart by the vacuum created as aresult of the spark (lightning).
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