Climate Change

Huge record-breaking lightning bolt spans 3 U.S. states

⚡️New Big Lightning just dropped⚡️
By Shannon Connellan  on 
A stock photo of lightning bolts striking on plateau in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, United States.
*AD/DC plays* It's not the record-breaking lightning bolts but impressive anyway. Credit: kylewolfe / Getty Images

It's not quite the right time to debunk that myth about lightning never striking the same place twice, as an enormous bolt has set a new global record.

The longest single flash of lightning has been captured by satellites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recorded and announced by the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday.

The "megaflash" stretched 768 kilometres (give or take 8 kilometres) or 477.2 miles (give or take 5 miles) across parts of the southern U.S. including Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi on April 29, 2020.

Satellite image of the lightning flash over the southern United States on 29 April 2020.
Satellite image of the lightning flash over the southern United States on Apr. 29, 2020. Credit: WMO

The flash in question measures as long as the distance between New York City and Columbus, Ohio. Or if you want another, between London and Hamburg.

The previous record was 60 kilometres shorter, recorded across the sky in southern Brazil on (fittingly) Halloween in 2018.

It's actually one of two records broken, with the greatest duration for a single lightning flash of 17.102 seconds (give or take 0.002 seconds) recorded in thunderstorm over Uruguay and northern Argentina on June 18, 2020. This lengthy flash broke the previous record by a mere 0.37 seconds, also measured over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019.

Count out 17 seconds right now, I'll wait.

Satellite image of the lightning flash over Uruguay and Argentina on June 18, 2020.
Satellite image of the lightning flash over Uruguay and Argentina on June 18, 2020. Credit: WMO

The new records were captured by NOAA's latest GOES-16/17 satellites which use geostationary lightning mappers (GLMs) to monitor extreme lightning continuously over the western hemisphere up to 55⁰ latitude.

The findings were published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on Tuesday by the WMO's Committee on Weather and Climate Extremes, which keeps the organisation's records of global extremes associated with different weather types.

"These extremely large and long-duration lightning events were not isolated but happened during active thunderstorms," committee member Ron Holle said in a press statement. "Any time there is thunder heard it is time to reach a lightning-safe place.”

If the WMO isn't cranking up AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" today, they're doing it wrong.

Recommended For You

Apple to finally let EU residents add COVID-19 certificates to Wallet app
Covid-19 certificate iPhone

India Arie explains the bigger problem behind Joe Rogan's racist comments
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

More in Life

Why do dogs tilt their heads? New research makes an intriguing discovery.
border collie dog tilting their head

How to avoid paying $139 for Amazon Prime
person typing and holding a credit card

New Zealand bans conversion therapy in 'a win for humanity'
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Auckland's Pride Parade 2018, with other parade-goers, holding a rainbow flag.

Activists demand accountability on the anniversary of the Parkland shooting
A black and white image of a group of people wearing winter coats. They are holding up signs that read, "How many more?"

Trending on Mashable

The biggest stories of the day delivered to your inbox.
By signing up to the Mashable newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from Mashable that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.
Thanks for signing up. See you at your inbox!