General Weather/Earth Sciences Topics > Earth Sciences

Seismographs and thunder

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I see a lot of interest in earthquakes and many of the display programs get data on the recent activity and publish them with distance, magnitude, depth and so on.

I even saw an aside comment that one participant here was working on his own device to use for monitoring.

My question is, as we approach spring and some very good storm seasons to be had, is whether or not a loud thunder can set off a local seismograph?

I have been around, usually after passage of the main storm, enjoying the storm's lightning and thunder, when every now and then there is a thunder event which literally shakes the house, rattles windows and I swear I can feel the house quiver a bit.  Once it happened while I was standing in the garage on the concrete slab and I certainly thought I saw little ripples in a bucket of water, like tapping on the side.

I know that some universities have vigorously opposed expansion of rail lines and heavy traffic roads near some of their established buildings where that kind of vibration transmitted to the ground would goof up some of their sensitive equipment, so ground shake can certainly be felt and detected.

Has anyone with a home seismograph seen their detector indicate a heavy, rolling nearby thunder event?
Just curious while waiting for one to happen, and no I don't have a seismometer.


I do not have experience with thunder here - it is very rare. I live north of San Francisco. But...I did build a seismograph and developed it to a high sensitivity.  I was able to measure small seismic events in the 2.0 magnitude range originating about 30 miles from my house. A magnitude 2 is so small most people can not feel the event. A three is something some people can feel depending on the distance to the epicenter and depth of the "quake".

I live about 5 miles from the pacific ocean and 5 miles from the surf which is usually about 5 to 15 feet depending on weather. My seismograph routinely measured the surf of the ocean  - a period of about 7 seconds here. In fact surf noise is a real problem to coastal seismology. Once a good seismograph is in position, it can measure the movement of tree roots in a strong wind.

A comment on DIY seismographs - I would guess the voltage pickup on a routine moving coil design, would be about 1 millivolt down to 10 microvolts, for a typical 5.0 about a 1000 miles from the instrument. But this a very crude estimation on my part.

This information might help answer your question.

I can see why so many people seem to be interested in seismology.  I had no idea that surf could be a problem, but it makes sense now that  you mention it.

Very interesting.

I am jealous of you being near 5-15' surf, but feel sorry for you not having the thrill of frequent thunderstorms!

Thanks again.

There is a seismograph at U of Minnesota/Morris. Maybe they have some insight.

In my JH trained experiences---I would not think thunder would trigger it.
Trains, maybe tornados could.  We know football games can.


I have a raspberry shake  earthquake setup outside in the ground about 3 feet from the foundation of the house sitting on and surrounded by several hundred pounds of concrete.  It easily detects trains 2 miles away, cars and motorcycles 150 feet away and during  quiet times it has even picked up me sitting in my chair shaking my leg inside the house.
  And yes it has picked up the rumble from nearby thunder.



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