Environment

Monster lightning "megaflashes" set new records for time and distance

Monster lightning "megaflashes...
A lightning storm in Croatia – new records have just been set in South America for the longest lightning bolts in recorded history, by time and distance
A lightning storm in Croatia – new records have just been set in South America for the longest lightning bolts in recorded history, by time and distance
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A lightning storm in Croatia – new records have just been set in South America for the longest lightning bolts in recorded history, by time and distance
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A lightning storm in Croatia – new records have just been set in South America for the longest lightning bolts in recorded history, by time and distance
The megaflash event in southern Brazil was more than 700 km long, between its most distant points
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The megaflash event in southern Brazil was more than 700 km long, between its most distant points

There are few more spectacular demonstrations of nature's power and beauty than a thunderstorm. The World Meteorological Association (WMO) has now confirmed two new records for the biggest lightning bolts in recorded history, measured by duration and distance, both of which would have provided quite a show.

On March 4, 2019, a single lightning event in Argentina split the sky for a whopping 16.73 seconds, more than doubling the previous record of 7.74 seconds in southern France. And on Halloween last year, October 31, 2019, a single megaflash in southern Brazil stretched for more than 435 miles (700 km) between its two most distant points, branching and snaking all over the place along the way. Again, this extraordinary number more than doubled the previous record – a 199.5-mile (321-km) flash recorded in Oklahoma in 2007.

The megaflash event in southern Brazil was more than 700 km long, between its most distant points
The megaflash event in southern Brazil was more than 700 km long, between its most distant points

“Environmental extremes are living measurements of what nature is capable of, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments," says Professor Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for the WMO. “It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves. This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning – including megaflashes – for engineering, safety and scientific concerns."

The average lightning bolt carries around 5 gigajoules of energy, or close to 1.4 megawatt-hours. It would be interesting to know how much energy these kinds of megaflash events carry, although it remains practically impossible for humans to harness and store this energy due to the random locations, enormous power loads and short durations of the flashes themselves.

Still, a fascinating and frightening thing to consider.

Source: United Nations

3 comments
guzmanchinky
I Love watching lightning storms in the middle of the desert lying on top of my van at night.
The deerhunter
Re guzmanchinky: I hope you have your insurance paid up. That sounds like an interesting pleasure.
Sue Neander
One of the most spectacular events we ever witnessed was a lightning storm over the Caribbean Sea at night. It was far off enough that we stood on the deck of the ship and just watched it light up the sky and the water for quite a while. Can't imagine the amount of energy discharged during that time.