Why today's sonic boom was loud, long lasting


At about 4:30 p.m. Friday, a strong sonic boom shook the area as an F-15 fighter jet roared overhead.

Sonic booms are not uncommon in the Tri-States, but what made today's unique was the weather conditions. The sonic boom was louder, and roared longer, than normal. The reasoning was the temperature profile of the atmosphere.

A temperature inversion was in place, meaning the air aloft was warmer than the air at the surface. The inversion helped trap the sound waves at the surface. The waves bounced off the ground and the inversion constantly, instead of being able to escape into the upper-levels of the atmosphere.

It's similar to why you can hear AM radio stations from very far away on certain nights. The temperature inversion helps the waves travel, and sound waves act just like radio waves.

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