World record for the length of a flash of 768 km in the United States (UN)
Steph Deschamps / February 1, 2022
On April 29, a gigantic lightning bolt lit up the sky of the southern United States. Its extent is visible on a satellite image: it is a breathtaking length of 768 kilometers. The natural spectacle thus far exceeds the previous record.
A single 768-kilometer-long lightning strike in the U.S. sky set the record for the longest lightning strike ever recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO said the April 29, 2020, lightning strike recorded in the southern U.S. surpassed the previous record of Oct. 31, 2018, from southern Brazil by about 60 kilometers.
The WMO also reported a new world record for flash duration. It revealed that lightning in a thunderstorm over Uruguay and northern Argentina lasted 17.1 seconds, 0.37 seconds longer than the previous record set on March 4, 2019, also in northern Argentina. According to the WMO, the record lightning strikes were measured in regions known for their huge thunderstorm complexes.
These are extraordinary records, said WMO's rapporteur on extreme weather and climate events, Randall Cerveny. They are living proof of the power of nature and scientific advances in conducting such assessments. The technology for capturing lightning length and duration has improved dramatically in recent years and now allows for records far beyond what was the norm. The latest mega-lightning records from 2018 and 2019 were the first to be verified using new satellite-based lightning detection technology.
They were both more than double the previous records captured using ground-based technology. According to Cerveny, longer lightning strikes are likely to be measured as measurement technology advances. Against this backdrop, the WMO stressed the great danger of lightning - which has cost many lives every year, explained WMO boss Petteri Taalas. The UN agency explained that the only places protected from lightning are large buildings with wiring and piping, or fully enclosed vehicles with metal roofs.
Two tragic lightning records are also listed in the WMO archives: The deadliest direct lightning strike occurred in 1975, when 21 people died in a hut struck by lightning in Zimbabwe. The deadliest indirect lightning-related incident occurred in Dronka, Egypt, in 1994, when 469 people died when lightning struck a number of oil tanks and burning oil flooded the town.