The record-breaking bolt was recorded stretching almost the entire length of Oklahoma, which is 230 miles wide, on June 20, 2007. Those previous records, confirmed in 2016, forced the WMO to reconsider how the organization defined lightning, as Jason Daley reported for Smithsonian magazine at the time. She can be reached through her website, noramcgreevy.com. As Cappucci reports, emerging research demonstrates that megaflashes might be more common than scientists once thought. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. These kinds of huge storm networks create the ideal opportunities for huge lightning strikes, reports Cappucci. As the WMO notes in its statement, the potential destructive power of megaflashes underscores the need for caution during major storms. Researchers from the WMO used satellite imagery to confirm the record strikes. September 16, 2016 8:02 AM EDT S cientists say the world’s longest lightning bolt traveled 199.5 miles and also confirmed the existence of a lightning flash that lasted for over 7 seconds. Cerveny said the result reinforced the fact that lightning can travel huge distances from their parent thunderstorms. The electrifying event is one of two record-setting strikes recently confirmed by a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) committee, according to a statement. The enormous flashes can also expand up to the size of the storm system that creates them—so the bigger the storm, the greater the potential for an enormous light show. Photo by: Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images, Silas Stein—Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images, Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2020? Smithsonian Institution, (Photo by Gustavo Basso / NurPhoto / Corbis via Getty Images), (Image courtesy of the World Meteorological Organization), (Image courtesy of World Meteorological Organization). “These are mind-boggling, incredible extremes,” Randall Cerveny, a member of the WMO committee and a scientist at Arizona State University, tells Matthew Cappucci for the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. The organization changed the formal definition of lightning from a “series of electrical processes taking place within one second” to a “series of electrical processes taking place continuously,” to better describe the kind of long-lasting flashes being recorded. Experts from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) successfully evaluated the records using improved remote sensing techniques which allowed the detection of previously unobserved lightning extremes. There have been 35 deaths by lightning in the U.S. in 2016 so far, the most fatalities since 2007, when 45 people died. Randall Cerveny, chief Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for WMO, said that the investigation highlighted that, because of technological improvements, climate experts can now monitor and detect specific lightning in greater detail than ever before. 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According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes the U.S. about 25 million times a year, killing an average of 49 people and severely injuring hundreds more. Write to Kate Samuelson at kate.samuelson@time.com. “Our experts’ best advice: when thunder roars, go indoors,” he added. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. By signing up you are agreeing to our, Beyoncé Due Back on Stage in Raleigh After Interruption, Will Thanksgiving Be a COVID-19 Disaster? Cookie Policy Vote Now! Continue 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. The chapel 'Maria im Felde' is visible due to the lightning. The longest-in-duration record was held by one that flashed over Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France for 7.74 seconds in 2012. or Give a Gift. South America is prone to enormous mesoscale convective systems, which are networks of thunderstorms that can span up to 60 miles across in the summer. Normally, the flashes measure just a few miles long and last for just one or two seconds, reports Cappucci. Scientists say the world’s longest lightning bolt traveled 199.5 miles and also confirmed the existence of a lightning flash that lasted for over 7 seconds. It Was in Canada, Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know now on politics, health and more, © 2020 TIME USA, LLC. Another bolt lit up over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019, for a whopping 16.73 seconds, setting a record for the longest recorded duration of a lightning strike. Advertising Notice Lightning bolts can be seen during a thunderstorm near Rottweil, Germany, 10 September 2016. California Do Not Sell My Info The flash occurred over Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France, on Aug. 30, 2012. Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. Vote Now, Metal Monolith Discovered in Utah Wilderness, You can unsubscribe at any time. Previously, the longest-in-distance flash record was held by a 199.7-mile-long flare in Oklahoma in 2007, reports Hannah Osbourne for Newsweek. On October 31, 2018, a spidery web of lightning unfurled over Brazil, stretching 440 miles across the sky—a length roughly equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington, D.C. https://www.newsweek.com/lightning-megaflash-record-brazil-1513609 Terms of Use Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. “Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature is capable, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments,” say Cerveny in the WMO statement. On October 31, 2018, a spidery web of lightning unfurled over Brazil, stretching 440 miles across the sky—a length roughly equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington, D.C. All Rights Reserved. “It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves.”. Lightning bolts result from a buildup of unbalanced electric charges in storm systems, according to NASA. The team published their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters this month. The colossal flash set the record for longest-in-distance lightning strike recorded to date. “Megaflashes,” on the other hand, are complex webs of lightning that spread horizontally, sometimes for hundreds of kilometers, Doyle Rice reports for USA Today. Privacy Statement Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our, World's Longest Lightning Bolt Traveled Almost 200 Miles. The organization reminds people to follow the 30-30 rule: if the time between thunder and lightning is less than 30 seconds, go inside, and stay inside for at least 30 minutes after the last flash. Parent thunderstorms for caution during major storms Should be TIME ’ s of! Traveled almost 200 miles confirm the record strikes that megaflashes might be more common than scientists thought... 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