700-kilometer mega-flash shatters distance record

Using sensors on satellites, the World Meteorological Organization has managed to record lightning strikes never seen before. Among them: two colossal discharges which each broke a record.

© Michael Rogers – Unsplash
The World Meteorological Organization has just retroactively awarded two world records to two gigantic lightning strikes, which occurred in South America. The first one tore the sky apart on October 31, 2018 over an incredible distance of 709 kilometers between the Atlantic Ocean and Argentina, crossing all of Brazil, a record. The latter illuminated Argentina for 16.73 seconds, another record-breaking time. In both cases, it was more than double the value that previously served as a record: a flash of 321 km in length in Oklahoma in 2007, and another of 7.74 seconds in the South of France.

A satellite record of the lightning bolt that broke the distance record. – © WMO, C. Chang
Up until now, lightning data has been collected mainly by sets of antenna and GPS receivers on the ground. On the other hand, these titanic lightnings were carefully peeled from satellite images, notably Goes-16 and Goes-17. We advise you to go take a look at their photo galleries, which are both worth visiting if the beautiful pictures of our planet inspire you. These were equipped in 2018 with specially dedicated instruments, dubbed Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs), which allow them to draw lots of information on a particular lightning bolt from the light that crosses the clouds. But it also makes it possible to collect data over the long term such as the frequency of lightning in certain areas, their intensity … The trends thus detected by GLMs have since become a source of information for weather forecasters and climatology researchers.

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