Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights finally caught making “thunder”

Audio recording captures a “thunderclap” from recent display in Finland

Dr. Tony Philips writes:

For centuries, people inside the Arctic Circle have reported hearing strange hissing and popping sounds under the Northern Lights. Evidence is mounting that at least some those auroral sounds are real. A researcher in southern Finland recorded some during a recent G1-class geomagnetic storm–the latest in a series of detections by the long-running Auroral Acoustics Project.

On Oct. 7th, a solar wind stream hit Earth’s magnetic field, sparking a G1-class geomagnetic storm. In southern Finland, the night sky turned green as energetic particles rained down on the upper atmosphere. But there was more to the show than beautiful lights.

Green auroras over southern Finland on Oct. 7-8, 2018. During the display, microphones in the region recorded popping and clapping sounds, which one researcher has attributed to the action of the geomagnetic storm. Photo credit: Matti Helin.

“The storm also produced a number of distinctive sounds including crackles and claps,” reports Prof. Emeritus Unto K. Laine of Finland’s Aalto University. “Here is a recording of one of the strongest sounds of the night–a sharp clap.” Click to listen:


More samples, images, graphs and the full story at


34 thoughts on “Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights finally caught making “thunder”

  1. Seriously, I’ve been fortunate to see the Northern Lights a few times…and the quiet can be very, very spooky.

  2. The Sami and Inuit have often said they can hear the aurora, a kind of hissing, at 110 km altitude where no sound propagates. Various microphone teams recorded nothing. The only possible explanation can be an electromagnetic “sense”, maybe we all have it, some animals have provably such (platypus).

    • There’s a type of aurora that appears column like and extends further down into the atmosphere. While the surrounding gas is much less dense, sound will still propagate, it just attenuates faster, moreover; both aurora and sound propagation require air molecules. The snap heard at the surface might have been equivalent in sound energy to the largest thunderclap when it was initially produced. It’s just that 50-100 km away, the sound will have attenuated significantly.

    • When I worked on a project in Alaska we had some spectacular Northern Lights. The Inuit crew would stand and whistle at the lights, they claimed that sometimes it whistled back. I personally never heard nothing. The sound recorded in the report sounds like an electrical discharge to me.

      • Ron,

        Good story, but there are no Inuit in Alaska. They live in Greenland and eastern Canada.

        In Alaska, we are privileged to share our nation with Inupiat people on the Arctic Ocean and Yupik on the Bering Sea. There is no Eskimo word for “Eskimo”, so to be PC, if Eskimo be un-PC, one needs to use the tribal names.

      • Thats exactly the report – the locals (Eskimo means meat eater in Greek, quite true) say they hear something. Being a red-meat eater myself, since I would likely not hear that whistling hiss, I do not qualify as Eskimo, nor Inuit.

        • meat eater in greek is

          κρεατοφάγος = kreatofágos

          The sound is from a hinge for a cheap cupboard without door.

    • Bonbon – October 10, 2018 at 12:35 pm

      The only possible explanation can be an electromagnetic ……..

      The “high voltage” electric lines, especially those near the “step-down” transformers, …. on the electric poles that conduct the electricity up the street in front of my house, …… noninfrequentely have a bout of “poppin, snappin and/or sizzlin” whenever a really potent “thunderstorm” moves through in close proximately to my locale.

      When one “senses” or feels a “static” electric charge building up in the surrounding air, ……. a monster “flash” of lightning and/or a “clap” of thunder is not too far behind


  3. I’ve seen several large bolides and some very active meteor showers where there were audible cracks, snaps and fiery burning sounds even though the actual events were occurring many miles above me. Maybe it was something I expected to hear (an audible hallucination), but other observers near me reported the same thing.

    • While camping deep in the back country and watching the Perseid meteor shower, I started tracking something far off in the distance approaching from the NW at a relatively shallow angle. It got closer and brighter until it passed by about 1500′ up and a few hundred feet to our West. It appeared to be subsonic and made a distinct crackling sound much as you described. Upon crossing a 900′ cliff just to our East, the compression wave caused it to explode. The flash and the boom were within seconds of each other. The light as it passed overhead was nearly as bright as the Sun and lit up a small a patch of clouds as if it was day. The flash was even brighter and the boom was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. This too was definitely not an audible hallucination.

  4. Always interesting when we see a geomagnetic storm with such a powerful display caused by a coronal hole and
    -no sunspots
    -no CMEs
    -no flares
    Wonder what would happen if we had no or only insignificant coronal holes for a longer period + the above.

  5. I worked the Alaska North Slope for years and we would regularly hear the lights crackle and pop. This was prevalent when the ‘lights’ were undulating and shifting rapidly.

  6. .
    “A recent experiment was achieved at ***** to study the scaling of
    the ionospherically generated ELF signal with power transmitted from
    the high frequency (HF) array. The results were in excellent agreement
    with computer simulations. The outcomes approving that the ELF
    power increases with the square of the incident HF power. This paper
    present a review on the situation of the ionized particles in Ionospheric
    layer when stimulated by artificial an ELF and VLF external high energy
    radio waves.”

  7. It was March I was driving from Winnipeg to Flin Flon through the night because I had to be at work in the morning. I stopped for a call of nature and then watched the aurora for several minutes. They were the “curtain” type of display. When they moved (and it looked just like a curtain would when it’s moved by a gust of wind) there was a distinct rushing sort of sound. It was the sort of sound that wind makes when it blows through trees. The night was cold, dead silent, very clear and there was no wind, so I was sure that the aurora was linked to the sound.

    The point that struck me very forcibly was that the sound arrived as the aurora did their moves. Because of this synchronicity, I was convinced that the noise was being produced close to me, or around me; I provisionally concluded that the sound I heard was of some sort of electrical discharge, essentially at the earth’s surface, taking place around me, and below the visible part of the aurora. Richard, just up-thread, observed the same synchronicity.

    I’ve often spoken about it, and the only people who really believed me were those who’d hear the sound themselves.

    • Or the aurora, being electromagnetic after all, in some way activates the hearing sense from 100km up without sound. Or some sensory channel that is interpreted as (surround) sound.
      See : : What is Synesthesia?

      Synesthesia is a perceptual condition of mixed sensations: a stimulus in one sensory modality (e.g., hearing) involuntarily elicits a sensation/experience in another modality (e.g. vision). Likewise, perception of a form (e.g., a letter) may induce an unusual perception in the same modality (e.g. a color).

  8. “What will really cook your noodle later on is… now that there is some empirical evidence of Borealis translating to kinetic energy, displacing enough air to create an audible wave… to what lesser extent could EM fields and particle streams anywhere on Earth displace molecules over a wide geographic area only slightly but in concert, to ‘seed’ cyclonic or river-like motions? I’m sorry, kiddo, I really am. You have a good soul, and I hate giving good people startling views. Oh, don’t worry about it. As soon as you step outside that door, you’ll start feeling better. You’ll remember you don’t believe in any of this Electric Universe crup. Only CO2 is in control of of the climate, remember?

    “Here. Take a cookie. I promise, by the time you’re done eating it, you’ll feel right as rain.”

  9. Odd. I’ve never heard the northern lights or even seen them in the southern Finland.

    I’ve seen them in the clear winter nights of the northern Finland. I can say this: pictures and videos never do them justice.

    The lights can split the sky from horizon to another. They can stretch, shift and dance across the sky faster than a blink of an eye. Can’t capture it all in one go.

    With something so gigantic, overwhelming and spectacular, you’d expect them to make a sound, but I’ve never heard any. Never seen them this early in the season either. Only at the height of the winter when it’s cold enough for exhalation to freeze.

    The northern lights can shine in all colors of the rainbow, but are usually green. Amplified under crystal clear sky, bright star & moon light and pristine snow, it’s a breathtaking experience. Only the blue moments of the northern winters come close. I’ve seen nowhere in the south anything like either. I’m in favor of Earth warming enough to experience them without the risk of eyelashes freezing together in a blink of an eye.

  10. I’ve heard the northern lights “crackle”, it seems you hear them best when not listening to yourself talk.

  11. Good grief. I saw a movie about the Eskimos when I was in grade school. The film was probably made in the late 50s or early 60s and it played sounds from the Aurora.

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