Discrepancies between linear predictions and direct measurements of the far-field sound produced by high speed jet flows are typically ascribed to nonlinear distortion. Here we employ an effective Gol’dberg number to investigate the likelihood of nonlinear distortion in the noise fields of supersonic jets. This simplified approach relies on an isolated view of a ray tube along the Mach wave angle. It is known that the acoustic pressure obeys by cylindrical spreading in close vicinity to the jet before advancing to a spherical decay in the far-field. Therefore, a ‘piecewise-spreading regime’ model is employed in order to compute effective Gol’dberg numbers for these jet flows. Our first-principal approach suggests that cumulative nonlinear distortion can only be present within 20 jet exit diameters along the Mach wave angle when laboratory-scale jets are being considered. Effective Gol’dberg numbers for full-scale jet noise scenarios reveal that a high-degree of cumulative distortion can likewise be present in the spherical decay regime. Hence, full-scale jet noise fields are more affected by cumulative distortion.