On Saturday morning, at approximately 11:30 AM, residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suddenly experienced a loud booming sound, similar yet distinct from the sound of thunder, as well as some minor ground tremors. Shortly after this event, the National Weather Service released a potential explanation: a meteor had entered the Earth’s atmosphere, burned up on entry, and eventually exploded over the Pittsburgh area, producing both the loud boom and a sonic shockwave that caused the tremors. While this explanation isn’t 100% confirmed, it is the most likely cause.
“There’s an asteroid in our solar system that’s responsible for that and when Earth passes through the debris field shed by that asteroid, we have lots of meteors coming into our atmosphere focusing head outside on the evening of the third early then they might catch some streaks of light so if you fireworks to go with the sonic boom they may have heard today,” Mike Hennessy of the Carnegie Science Center told local news outlets.
“In this case, it’s possible that we had a fireball that burned up and our atmosphere exploded,” Hennessy said. “Seismic activity was ruled out, as was construction from the airport. Thunder was ruled out because it was a relatively stable storm system going over Pittsburgh today.”
The loud explosion heard over SW PA earlier may have been a meteor explosion. This GOES-16 GLM Total Optical Energy product shows a flash that was not associated with lightning. No confirmation, but this is the most likely explanation at this time. pic.twitter.com/ArtHCEA1RT
— NWS Pittsburgh (@NWSPittsburgh) January 1, 2022
Pittsburgh residents took to Twitter to post footage from phones and security cameras that picked up the loud boom, as well as phenomena such as shaking windows and objects falling off of shelves, though luckily there was no notable damage from the explosion.
“It’s pretty cool,” Shannon Hefferan, a meteorologist with NWS Pittsburgh, told local stations. “It’s, you know, in last couple years, I mean, we didn’t have that type of technology to see that kind of phenomena before.