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Sonic Event - 26 January 2012 15:56 UTC


On the afternoon of 26 January 2012, from around 16:05 UTC, the BGS began to receive information from the media, the police and several residents in towns and villages in and around east Cumbria, North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, who reported that they felt what many had thought to have been an earthquake at sometime around 16:00 UTC. Reports described "massive bang and then a rumble and everyones house shook but only for a second ", "it sounded like a crash or explosion ", "I felt it shake me up to the knees and quite violently " and "it sounded more like a boom rather than a blast".

Data from the BGS seismic networks in the region were examined and signals consistent with a possible sonic origin were recorded at 15:56 UTC on our seismic station HPK in the Yorkshire area.  The observations received are similar to those which have been received previously for sonic booms.

The RAF have since put an announcement on the MOD website informing the public that, in the run-up to the Olympic Games, a training exercise is taking place in the area of the Yorkshire Dales. Further information on this can be found at

A sonic boom is the sound associated with the shock waves created when an object, such as an aircraft, breaks the sound barrier. An aircraft travelling slower than the speed of sound (~760 mph) creates a series of audible pressure waves that spread out in front and behind it. These waves travel at the speed of sound. As the speed of the aircraft increases these waves get closer together and at the speed of sound they merge into a single shock wave that starts at the nose and ends at the tail of the aircraft.

The boom is created by the sudden increase in pressure at the nose and also as the pressure returns to normal at the tail as the aircraft passes. This can lead to a distinctive "double boom". The shock wave or boom continues to be generated for as long as the aircraft is supersonic, which is why they are typically observed along a long strip along the flight path of the aircraft.

Map showing the distribution of felt reports. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION



The moment a sonic boom occurs. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION.