Two extreme bolts of lightning have broken records for both duration and distance.
A bolt that lit up the sky over Argentina on March 4, 2019, lasted 16.73 seconds, which is more than twice as long as the previous record-holder, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s announcement on Thursday.
A different lightning bolt on Oct. 31, 2018, set the new record for length. It stretched for more than 440 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, across part of Brazil and into Argentina, the organization said.
Lightning illuminates the sky over Samsun, Turkey on August 21, 2019.
(Veysel Altun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
“These are 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. It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves,” Randall Cerveny, chief rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for WMO, said in a statement.
The WMO said the previous record for the longest detected distance for a single lightning flash was 199.5 miles on June 20, 2007, in the state of Oklahoma.
For duration, the old record was for a single lightning flash that lasted continuously for 7.74 seconds on Au. 30, 2012, over Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France.
“This will provide valuable information for establishing limits to the scale of lightning — including megaflashes — for engineering, safety and scientific concerns,” Cerveny said.
Lightning strikes unfortunately claim a number of lives worldwide each year. Experts say that if the time between flash and thunder is less than 30 seconds, it’s best to go inside for safety.