Huge Lightning 'Megaflash' in Brazil Breaks Record for Longest Strike

The world record for the longest lightning flash has been recorded in Brazil, with a single strike traveling over 440 miles, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This is equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington D.C., the WMO said. The strike took place on October 31, 2018.

The record for the longest lasting lightning strike was also confirmed by the organization, with an event in Argentina March 4, 2019, lasting 16.73 seconds.

The WMO, a United Nations Agency that covers weather, climate and water resources, confirmed the records using satellite imagery technology. Scientists published details of the findings in the American Geophysical Union's journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for WMO, and one of the study authors, said the two events represented "extraordinary records from single lightning flash events."

"Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature is capable, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments," he said. "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 information these strikes provide will help us better understand the limits of lightning.

Lightning strikes are huge sparks of electricity in the atmosphere. Exactly how it is created is not well understood. It is known certain conditions are required for the electric charge to build up, but exactly how this happens is unclear, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's National Severe Storms Laboratory.

The previous record for the longest traveled lightning strike was 199.5 miles. This event took place in Oklahoma in June, 2007. The previous longest lasting strike took place in August 2012 in France and lasted 7.74 seconds.

In the study published in Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists say that space-based lightning mapping now allows them to measure flash duration and distance over broad distances. Using next-generation satellites that continuously map lightning activity across North and South America, they were able to identify previously unobserved extremes that "far exceeded the lightning records."

The WMO notes lightning is a major hazard that kills many people every year. In India over 100 people have been killed by lightning strikes in the northern and eastern parts of the country, officials confirmed Thursday. The strikes coincide with the start of the annual monsoon season. According to AFP, India's National Crime Records Bureau recorded 2,300 deaths from lightning in 2018.

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Stock image of a lightning strike. Researchers have announced two "megaflashes" with longest distance and longest duration ever recorded. iStock