Something has changed. For some reason, reports of mysterious or otherwise unexplained booms seem to be far less frequent than they have been in recent memory. Over the past two years, I’ve had plenty of weeks where I’ve had four or five mystery boom reports to share. Throughout the end of April and May, however, reports of these anomalous acoustic disturbances seemed to have slowed a bit. What’s with the sudden slowdown in mystery booms?
On Thursday, April 24, residents of two villages in county Suffolk in eastern England reported being shocked a “mystery bang” some initially feared was an automobile crash or industrial explosion. While the case remains unsolved, aircraft scrambled from nearby Royal Air Force bases have been known to cause similar booms in the past over the same area.
On the evening of Monday, April 29, residents of Hampton Roads, Virginia felt and heard a powerful boom. The National Weather Service in nearby Wakefield issued a statement shortly after claiming that with no meteorological explanations, the boom was likely caused by a supersonic aircraft breaking the sound barrier. Shortly after, the U.S. Navy issued a statement claiming one of its F/A-18 Super Hornets had indeed caused the boom:
Based on analysis of data by fleet area control, surveillance facility and strike fighter wing Atlantic, we can conclusively state the loud noise heard across Hampton Roads around 6:30 p.m. Monday was a sonic boom generated by a U.S. F18 super hornet from Oceana.
Naval Air Station Oceana is located just east of where the boom was reported. The base is the east coast home of seventeen Navy strike fighter squadrons and Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.
That same night on April 29, houses in suburban Queensland, Australia were rattled by an “unexplained big boom” which witnesses say caused the earth to shudder. “My wife and I were inside when we experienced the house shuddering – it was so loud I could not image any handheld device could possibly create that amount of noise,” said Cornubia resident Shaun Pask. “It was not a small object hitting a small part of the roof – it was like something fell from the sky and it landed on our whole roof at the one time. It was like a sonic boom hammered down on the entire roof and neighbours said they had the same experience.”
A week later, people in Kingman, Arizona were terrified by a “loud boom” that echoed throughout the town on the evening of Wednesday, May 8. Some residents even reported finding debris strewn throughout city roads. Nevertheless, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Specialist Anita Mortensen told local news reporters that there is nothing to worry about. “We found nothing that would point to any specific type of occurrence,” Mortensen said. “Nothing is confirmed at this time, and the investigation is ongoing.”
On Monday, May 13, shocked residents of Sidney, Nebraska reported a “mysterious loud ‘boom’ sound” which several residents described as similar to a cannon being discharged. Sidney Police Chief Joe Aikens said that while police received several calls about the noise, they have no idea where it came from or what caused it. The Sidney police have asked residents to share any information they have pertaining to the noise.
On May 16, hundreds of people throughout the Otago coastline in southeast New Zealand reported hearing a massive boom. The New Zealand Herald reports that most witnesses thought the noise could have been a meteorite or an earthquake, but shortly thereafter local meteorological services reported that a single powerful lightning strike was detected 50km (31 miles) out at sea which could have caused the boom. Apparently, the strike was caused by a particularly low-altitude type of thunderstorm called a squat thunderstorm which can cause thunder much louder than typical storms. Do you buy that explanation?
While there may have been fewer incidents to report on this month, six reports in four weeks still isn’t anything to shake a stick at. Interestingly, sonic booms seem to be increasingly cited or suspected as a cause of these booms now that winter is over and “frostquakes” are no longer a standby scapegoat. Could more of these reports be explained by sonic booms? I’ve suspected sonic booms from the start but with little to no evidence left in the wake of these unexplained sonic phenomena, there’s no telling what could be splitting the skies with such regularity.
Keep your eyes and ears upward.