The difference between the visibility in Yauco, Puerto Rico, was night and day from this past May to June 22, as Saharan dust obscured visibility.


Story Highlights

  • The “megaflash” traveled 440 miles over parts of southern Brazil on October 31, 2018.
  • A world record for longest lightning in terms of time was also announced.
  • Lightning is a major hazard that claims many lives every year, the WMO said.

A new world record lightning strike of 440 miles has been confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, according to a Thursday announcement.

The “megaflash” traveled that distance over parts of southern Brazil on Oct. 31, 2018, the WMO said. This is equivalent to the distance between Washington, DC, and Boston.

In addition to the longest flash in terms of distance, a world record for longest lightning strike in terms of time was also announced: A single flash lasted 16.73 seconds over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019.

“These are extraordinary records from single lightning flash events,” said Arizona State University Professor Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for the WMO, in a statement. “Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature is capable, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments.

“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 record “megaflashes” were detected with help from lightning detection equipment on board satellites in orbit around the Earth.

A megaflash is defined as horizontal lightning discharges that reach hundreds of kilometers in length.

Lightning rips through the night sky above Boulder, Colorado, in this file photo. New world records for lightning length and duration have been confirmed, the World Meteorological Organization said on June 25, 2020. (Photo: USA TODAY reader-submitted photo)

The previous record for longest-in-distance flash was 199.5 miles in 2007, across Oklahoma. The previous record for longest-duration flash was 7.74 seconds in 2012 in France. 

Those records had been confirmed using data collected by ground-based lightning networks.

The findings about the lightning records were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. 

Lightning is a major hazard that claims many lives every year, the WMO said. Just in the U.S., an average of 20 people are killed and hundreds injured each year by lightning, the National Weather Service said. 

On Thursday in India, 83 people, mostly farm workers, were killed by lightning during thunderstorms in Bihar state. 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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