Science & Technology

Megaflash! New longest distance and longest duration lightnings recorded

The length is equivalent to the distance between Delhi and Ahmedabad

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 04 February 2022

The new record for the longest lightning bolt has been measured 768 kilometres, according to United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The megaflash struck southern US, across Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas on April 29, 2020.

The length is equivalent to the distance between New York City and Columbus, Ohio; London and the German city of Hamburg; or Delhi and Ahmedabad.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said that the lightning bolt is some 60 kms more than the previous record, set in southern Brazil on October 31, 2018.

The WMO’s committee of experts on weather and climate extremes also reported a new world record for the duration of a lightning flash. A single flash that developed continuously through a thunderstorm over Uruguay and northern Argentina June 18, 2020, lasted for 17.1 seconds — 0.37 seconds longer than the previous record set on March 4, 2019, also in northern Argentina.

The two regions where these extraordinary bolts were detected are among the few places on earth known to experience intense storms known as Mesoscale Convective System thunderstorms, or megaflashes.

“These are extraordinary records from single lightning flash events,” said Randall Cerveny from WMO. Environmental extremes are living measurements of the power of nature, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments, he added.

The technology used to detect the length and duration of lightning flashes has improved dramatically in recent years, enabling records far greater than what was once the norm. The previous assessments that established the flash duration and extent records used data collected by ground-based Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) networks.

Many lightning scientists acknowledged that there are upper limits for the scale of lightning that could be observed by any existing LMA. Identifying megaflashes beyond these extremes would require a lightning mapping technology with a larger observation domain.

Recent advances in space-based lightning mapping offer the ability to measure flash extent and duration continuously over broad geospatial domains. These new instruments include the Geostationary Lightning Mappers on the R-series Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES-16 and 17) that recorded the new lightning records.

It is likely that even greater extremes still exist. In time, we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.