Fiber-optic cables can be used to detect rumbles of thunder: Study

Vibrations from loud events like lightning pass from the air to the Earth’s surface.

Underground fiber optic telecommunications, which carry internet and phone service, can pick up the rumble of thunder underground, an advance that can offer scientists a new way to detect environmental hazards, and image deep inside the Earth.

The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, used the university’s existing fibre network for internet and phone service as an array of distributed sensors to observe the progress of thunderstorms as they crossed the campus.

The researchers, including those from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the US, said this is the first time thunder has been heard underground using a telecommunications fibre optic array.

Explaining how the sound was produced in nature, they said, the passage of lightning heats up the air so fast that it creates a shockwave we hear as thunder.

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