'Megaflash' clinches lightning world record, WMO confirms
The next time you are surprised by a thunderbolt or lightning, thank you for not being in Brazil on October 31, 2018. On that Halloween night, the longest-running lightning strike was broken when lightning streaked 440 miles over the southern region of the country.
Scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed the record in a recent American Geophysical Union journal, and also confirmed another astonishing broken record for flash duration in this article. According to their findings, a strike in Argentina on March 4, 2019 lasted 16.73 seconds and broke the previous record by almost nine seconds.
The two record-breaking South American bolts were confirmed megaflashes, a name given to lightning discharges hundreds of kilometers long.
The record bolts both occurred about a year apart in the southeast corner of South America. (Card / WMO)
According to the journal, the ideal conditions for a megaflash occurrence are large electrified clouds with low lightning rates that are bound to more active thunderstorm cells.
In a press release, WMO official Prof. Randall Cerveny said it was likely that even larger lightning extremes would exist and that improved detection technology would be helpful in future observations.
"These are exceptional recordings of individual lightning events," said the Arizona State University professor. "Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature can do and scientific advances in making such assessments."
The new record strikes were recorded by devices from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). Previously, records were evaluated using data collected from ground-based lightning mapping networks that many lightning scientists recognize as having upper limits on the observable lightning scale, the WMO said.
The distance of the record-breaking lightning strike in Brazil has been captured by new satellite technology. (Image / WMO)
The previous record for the Megaflash distance was just under 200 miles, which was recorded on June 20, 2007 in Oklahoma. At 440 miles, the new record bolt roughly corresponded to the distance from Cleveland to Charlotte.
This year has been particularly catastrophic for lightning victims in India, where the death toll from strikes reached at least 107 this week. Deadly thunderstorms have covered the northern part of the nation under intense monsoon conditions.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), four people died of lightning strikes this year in the United States. Historically, the summer months of June to August are the most dangerous times for lightning strikes, with an average of 26 deaths per year over the past ten years.
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