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- Two lightning strikes in Argentina and Brazil broke two world records: one for the longest reported distance for a single lightning bolt and one for the longest reported duration.
- Technically, the lightning recordings refer to “megaflashes” or horizontal lightning discharges that can reach hundreds of kilometers in length.
- In Brazil, the Megaflash covered an incredible 440 miles.
Today the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO) certified two separate “Megaflash” lightning strikes originating in South America as new world records for the longest reported distance and longest reported duration for a single lightning bolt.
The WMO Committee on Weather and Climate Extremes, which is tasked with maintaining weather and climate archives from around the world, published its findings in the journal of the American Geophysical Union. Geophysical research letters, on June 26th.
The committee said the two new records are:
Brazil, October 31, 2018: The world’s longest reported distance for a single lightning bolt. It covered a horizontal distance of approximately 440 miles over parts of southern Brazil. This corresponds to the area between Boston and Washington, DC or between London and the border with Switzerland near Basel.
⚡️Argentina, March 4, 2019: The longest duration for a single lightning bolt. It lasted 16.73 seconds and developed continuously in the northern part of the country.
The new lightning reports are more than double the previous values measured for similar world records in the US and France, according to WMO. A lightning bolt on June 20, 2007 that passed over Oklahoma held the previous record for the longest detected distance for a single lightning bolt, reaching 199.5 miles. The previous record for the duration previously belonged to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, where a single lightning bolt lasted 7.74 seconds continuously on August 30, 2012.
“These are exceptional recordings of single lightning events … it is likely that there are even greater extremes and that we will see them as lightning detection technology improves,” said Randall Cerveny, WMO’s chief rapporteur for Weather and Climate Extremes, said in one prepared declaration. “This will provide valuable information to set limits on the extent of lightning – including mega flashes – for technical, safety and scientific purposes.”
In the new article on lightning strikes, the researchers describe a “megaflash” as a horizontal mesoscale lightning discharge that reaches a length of hundreds of kilometers.
In previous reviews, the researchers used data from ground-based Lightning Mapping array networks. According to the Global Hydrology Resource Center (GHRC), a NASA partner organization, these ground-based arrays comprise a network of antennas, GPS receivers, and processing systems that “capture” the overall lightning strike.
However, scientists believed that existing Lightning Mapping Array networks had their limits. There was an upper scale for lightning strikes that these systems could document. They needed technology that could reach a higher level. To confirm the new records, WMO relied on a new space-based satellite image technology in the event of lightning strikes.
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The new technology will not only help the WMO spot the next big lightning bolts, but it will also help protect people from them. And considering that International Lightning Safety Day is this Sunday, this is a pretty good time.
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