Micro-Season: “Thunder Raises Its Voice”

We have entered the micro-season of “Thunder Raises its Voice”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini season of Spring Equinox. Each mini season contains three micro-seasons. 

The micro-seasons contained within this mini season are:

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration into the world around you. 


As the earth emerges from its winter slumber, the sun’s warming rays have the potential to cause severe weather patterns, including thunderstorms.  

Thunderstorms

At its most basic level, a thunderstorm is a rainstorm with thunder.  Thunder is the sound that accompanies lightning.  Thunder can either be a low rumbling noise or more abrupt sound sometimes called a thunderclap.  

How are Thunderstorms Created?

Thunderstorms have three basic elements to them: moisture, an unstable air mass, and lift.

Moisture:  In order for a thunderstorm to develop there must be moisture in the air.  When talking about moisture in the air, we are talking about water vapor. Water vapor gets into the air by way of evaporation.

Unstable air mass:  Air can either be stable or unstable.(1)  A stable air mass is one where the colder air lies under the warm air.  An unstable air mass is one where the warm air is under the cold air.  

When the cold air lies underneath the warm air, it is stable because cold air is more dense and prefers to be closer to the ground. Therefore, when disturbances occur in the air masses they don’t cause large scale disruptions. The air mass may shift, but they returns to their relative orientation of cold air below and warm air above.

When warm air is under cold air it is unstable because warmer air is less dense and wants to rise.  Likewise, colder air is more dense and wants to fall towards the ground.  This creates instability because each air mass has a natural tendency to want to shift atmospheric location.  All the warmer air mass needs to try and shift its orientation is a little nudge.  This nudge is sometimes referred to as Lift

Lift:  When the sun begins to warm the earth’s surface, it warms the air directly above it. As this air continues to warm, it will begin to rise up into the atmosphere.  This warmer air will continue to rise as long as it stays warmer than the surrounding air. 

Three Stages of a Thunderstorm

Thunderstorms have three basic stages to their life cycle: Developing Stage, Mature Stage, and Dissipating. 

Developing Stage:  In this stage, the warm air is rising and comes in contact with colder air masses.  When the warm moist air meets the colder air, the water vapor in the air begins to condense and creates a cloud. This cloud formation continues to grow upward and is known as a towering cumulus cloud. The cloud’s growth is feed by the continuous rising or warm air, also known as updrafts.  These towering cumulus clouds can grow to be 10 miles tall.(4) At this stage there is no rain falling, but there might be some lighting.

Mature Stage: In this stage, the cloud has reached a significant altitude that the updrafts flatten out and the cloud takes an anvil type shape.  This cloud formation is called cumulonimbus incus.(3) 

The water particles that began to form in the updrafts, now begin to join together into larger droplets. These droplets then freeze at these higher altitudes and fall back to earth.  While they fall, they melt again and become rain.  

As the rain falls, it creates a downdraft.  When the downdraft hits the ground it creates the intense winds that are characteristic of thunderstorms.

The simultaneous presence of both updrafts and downdrafts is an indicator of a mature thunderstorm.   

Dissipating: Eventually, the rain and the downdrafts overtakes the updrafts.  At this time, the thunderstorm begins to dissipate as the warm air is no longer feeding the growth of the cloud and pushing water vapor into the sky.  There is still a possibility of lightning at this time even though there is less rain. 

Stages of a Thunderstorm: NOAA
Stages of a Thunderstorm: NOAA

The most basic thunderstorm is called a single-cell storm.  This type of storm has one updraft.  It is estimated that a single-cell storm will only last about 30 minutes.(3)  

There are more complex types of thunderstorms including multi-cell and superstorms.  These storms all have the same building blocks, but have more multiple updrafts and complex wind patterns.  Some of these storms may last for hours.(3)

Poems about Thunder and Lightning

Thunderstorms are big and bold.  They make their presence known with earth shaking sounds, flashes of light, and plenty of rain.  So it is no surprise that they would have found their way into our poetic history. 

Published in the August 1913 issues of Poetry Magazine, John Hall Wheelock published “The Thunder-Shower”.  

“The Thunder-Shower” by John Hall Wheelock

The lightning flashed, and lifted
       The slides of heaven apart,
The fiery thunder rolled you
       All night long through my heart.

From dreams of you at dawn
      I rose to the window ledge
The storm had passed away,
      The lake lapped on the sedge

The lyre of heaven trembled
     Still with the thought of you,
The twilight on the waters;
     And all my spirit, too. 

One of the things that I noticed, and liked, about this poem was how it compares the life stages of the thunderstorm with the emotional turbulence of a missing lover.  The beginning is intense with thunder and lightening. But then, as the storm breaks, there is a melancholic calm that covers the land.


Thunder and lighting also found their way into haiku.  Jack Kerouac wrote a few haiku about thunderstorms including:

Drunk as a hoot owl
 writing letters
By thunderstorm
-Jack Kerouac

And,

Thunder and snow -
 how
We shall go!
-Jack Kerouac

This second haiku, with its combination of thunder and snow, makes me think of this haiku by Kobayashi Issa.

from deep
in the lightning's flash...
spring snow falling
-Issa

However, I really appreciate the following haiku from Matsuo Bashō that incorporates both light and sound.

A flash of lightning:
The screech of a night heron
Flying in the darkness
-Basho

There is something that I really enjoy about this imagery.  The combination of lightning, darkness, and the flying bird really works for me.


If you have a favorite poem about thunderstorms, please share in the comments below.  

Brown Building with lightening. Photo Credit by Pexels
Photo by Pexels.com

Resources:

  1. Highs and Lows/High and Low Air Flow: Iowa State University
  2. “Thunder”; Wikipedia
  3. “Thunderstorms”: Wikipedia
  4. What Causes a Thunderstorm? SciJinks NOAA
  5. Severe Weather 101: Thunderstorms; NOAA 
  6. John Hall Wheelock; “The Thunder-Shower”: Poetry Foundation 
  7. Jack Kerouac’s haiku retrieved from Terebess Asia Online, “Jack Kerouac Collected Haikus”

Looking for a way to support our work? The Naturalist Weekly bookstore has several curated lists of books about poetry and haiku. We even have gift cards that can be used throughout the store.   

Naturalist Weekly accepts donations for coffee and journals. Your support will keep both the coffee and content flowing. Thank you!


27 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “Thunder Raises Its Voice”

Add yours

    1. Hi Thattamma, Yes! I think you recently shared a post about a big storm. I remember that. Hopefully you had a sunny and dry day today.

      1. Thank you for this lovely reply comment 🙏🌷from yesterday night here raining only 🌧️
        So many places flood also !! So many countries also flooding, what a climate change is this ?
        You and family take care🙏🌷my place drainage system as well !! So here ok 👌👏

  1. I so enjoyed this celebration of thunder and atmosphere, Mark, and the clear descriptions of the stable and unstable air masses. And I, like you, especially enjoyed the Basho haiku. Lovely post.

    1. Hi Jet, thank you very much for your kind words about this post! It is very much appreciated. So glad that you also enjoyed Basho’s haiku. It’s pretty awesome. Thanks again for the comment!

    1. Right, it is pretty great. I actually had to look up the night heron because I wasn’t familiar with the bird. I found out they have red eyes and croak like a raven. Fascinating!

      1. Hi Mark. I created a collage to go with this haiku which I intend to post within the next week or two. I included a reference to your blog which I hope you don’t mind. Phil

      2. Hi Phil, I can’t wait to see the collage! That should be very cool. And thanks for linking back. It is definitely appreciated. Talk soon,

  2. Always love reading your posts!
    Can you tell that I’m an Emily D. fan? Must be because of all the time I spent in Amherst when I was young! 😉
    Julie

    A Thunderstorm

    The wind begun to rock the grass
    With threatening tunes and low, –
    He flung a menace at the earth,
    A menace at the sky.

    The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
    And started all abroad;
    The dust did scoop itself like hands
    And throw away the road.

    The wagons quickened on the streets,
    The thunder hurried slow;
    The lightning showed a yellow beak,
    And then a livid claw.

    The birds put up the bars to nests,
    The cattle fled to barns;
    There came one drop of giant rain,
    And then, as if the hands

    That held the dams had parted hold,
    The waters wrecked the sky,
    But overlooked my father’s house,
    Just quartering a tree.

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for adding this. Dickinson has so many great poems I am surprised that you can keep them all straight! I like the “birds put up bars on the nests” and “The waters wrecked the sky” . Those are great lines. Thanks again for adding to the conversation. Talk soon,

  3. First, great research and writing in this one, Mark. Second, Basho’s night crane haiku is so incredibly memorable and its imagery sears itself into the mind. Gorgeous. Third, the most memorable thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced was at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming in August 1996. I spent the day hiking around the tower and working on photography. When I arrived, the skies were clear and sunny. But those plains storms have a tendency to kick up in a hurry, and over the course or what seemed like only a few minutes the sky turned angry. It began to pour as darkness settled and I was still about half a mile from the parking lot. I hurried to my truck in the dark as the lightning began, and as I drove away from the tower, a thought occurred to me: I’d never have another opportunity to make lightning images at Devils Tower. So, being the reckless moron I was, I turned around and headed back to the tower, parked my truck and ran, flashlight in hand, to a small overlook where I knew I could set up my tripod. By this point the thunder was literally a continuous roar and the lightning was popping all around frantically. I composed the image and shot a roll of film (30-second exposures) in the downpour as electricity crackled all around me. I was soaked, laughing, holding my cap over my camera to keep the rain off it, and thinking I could be struck and killed at any moment, but it was such a thrill at the same time. It was the most intense weather I’d ever seen. Finally, film used up, I ran back to my truck sopping wet and feeling a sense of awe and exhilaration at how terrible and violent nature can be (and also that I had survived my stupidity). I ended up with a couple of decent shots of the tower and lightning bolts. It’s a memory I’ll never forget (and never attempt to duplicate!). 😀

    1. Hi Mike, What a great story! I agree that intense weather is both exhilarating and scary at the same time. Did you share that picture on your website yet? I can’t wait to see it if you do. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Talk soon,

      1. Hey, Mark. I’ve not posted the image yet but I’ll see about including it in the next gallery on my blog. Fun times! 🙂

    1. Wonderful share!
      Thunder only happens when it’s raining/ Players only love you when they’re playing/ They say women, they will come and they will go/When the rain washes you clean you’ll know/
      Thanks!

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