Largest ever lightning bolt confirmed
A lightning flash that occurred in April 2020 has been confirmed as the world’s greatest in length, beating the record of 440.6 miles (709 km) set in 2018. The bolt extended across the US states of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The record-breaking bolt, measuring 477.2 miles (768 km) was confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) after a long process of checking and validating satellite data.
Randall Cerveny of Arizona State University told New Scientist that the phenomenon is known as a “megaflash” because of its size, and that it moved from cloud to cloud rather than directing itself towards the earth.
The WMO also identified another lightning bolt over Uruguay and northern Argentina which lasted for 17.3 seconds – the longest duration ever recorded. The strike also took place in 2020 and beat the old record time of 16.7 seconds.
WMO has verified 2 new world records for ⚡️⚡️lightning in notorious #megaflash hotspotsLongest distance single flash of 768 km (477.2 miles) across southern #USA on 29.4.2020Greatest duration of 17.102 seconds over #Uruguay and northern #Argentina on 18.6.2020@NOAApic.twitter.com/ijPXXue0bD— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) February 1, 2022
“We now have clear proof that single lightning events can last seventeen seconds,” said Cerveny, noting that it added to an important body of knowledge on the dynamics of lightning.
Both the record-setting bolts occurred at thunderstorm hotspots in the Great Plains of the US and the Río de la Plata basin in South America.
“These two lightning flash records are absolutely extraordinary,” Cerveny added.
The South American bolt also traveled from cloud to cloud. Cerveny said that both were several thousand feet above the ground and therefore posed no danger to human life.