Lightning ‘Megaflash’ in Brazil Breaks Record for Longest Strike, Report

Lightning 'Megaflash' in Brazil Breaks Record for Longest Strike, Report
Lightning 'Megaflash' in Brazil Breaks Record for Longest Strike, Report

A new world record lightning strike of 440 miles has been confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, according to a Thursday announcement.

That is equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington DC in the United States, or between London and Basel, Switzerland, the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement.

WMO’s committee of experts on weather and climate extremes also reported a new world record for the duration of a lightning flash, with a single flash that developed continuously over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019 lasting for a full 16.73 seconds.

The new “megaflash” records, which were verified with new satellite lightning imagery technology, were more than double the previous known record-holders, WMO said.

The previous record for the longest detected distance for a single lightning flash was 321 kilometres (199 miles), measured on June 20, 2007 in the US state of Oklahoma, WMO said. The previous duration record was 7.74 seconds, measured on August 30, 2012 in southern France, it said.

The new measurements reveal “extraordinary records from single lightning flash events,” Randall Cerveny, the chief rapporteur in the WMO expert committee, said in the statement.

“It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves,” he said.

The previous records were assessed using data collected by ground-based so-called lightning mapping array networks, which many lightning scientists acknowledge face upper limits in the scale of lightning that can be observed, WMO said.

It hailed recent advances in space-based lightning mapping that allow for measuring “flash extent and duration continuously over broad geo-spatial domains.”

This has allowed for the detection of “previously unobserved extremes in lightning occurrence, known as ‘megaflashes’,” Michael J. Peterson, of the Space and Remote Sensing Group of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US, said in the statement.

Megaflashes, he said, “are defined as horizontal mesoscale lightning discharges that reach hundreds of kilometres in length.”

The UN agency occasionally reveals quirky weather-related milestones, like in 2016 revealing a record wave measurement of a behemoth that towered 19 metres (62.3 feet) — taller than a six-storey building — above the North Atlantic.


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