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‘It woke me up!’: Inside the atmospheric ‘lid’ that awoke NYC from its slumber

The “City that Never Sleeps” can blame Mother Nature for making it literal Monday morning as several around New York City reported being jolted from bed due to unusually loud cracks of thunder.

“It woke me up — it was extremely loud and lasted much longer than usual,” said FOX Weather Meteorologist and Senior Weather Producer Greg Diamond. “I’d estimate the loudest part lasted about 2-4 seconds and instead of the usual single loud crack of thunder sounds.  There were multiple loud booms.”

There were five cloud-to-ground lightning strikes measured in the Manhattan area, according to Chris Vagasky with Vaisala. 

One of those bolts struck the top of the World Trade Center:

That’s nothing new  – Vagasky reports the WTC is struck by lightning about 109 times per year on average.

The reason for the figuratively “super charged” thunder was a temperature inversion sat over New York City. To those on the ground, the temperature was 51 degrees but up around 900 feet, the temperature had warmed to 54 degrees, instead of the usual cooling with height.

That inversion can trap sound waves near the surface, according to FOX Weather Meteorologist and Data Weather Specialist Shane Brown.

The weather map displays where intensity of the rainfall.
FOX Weather

“Sound propagation can vary based on the temperature characteristics of the atmosphere near the point of origin,” Brown said. “In an environment where you have a shallow layer of cold air at the surface covered by warmer air aloft you can in a sense ‘trap’ the sound waves from refracting upwards. This leads to sound waves that tend to dissipate slower and can extend further in distance.”

And can wake up even the most sound sleepers amid the bustle of Manhattan.

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