Longest Lightning Bolt in the World Stretches Across Three U.S. States

On Feb. 1, 2022, the World Meteorological Organization announced a new world record for the longest lightning bolt ever recorded. The bolt reached nearly 500 miles and traveled across three states.

  The bolt stretched 477 miles, breaking the previous record of 440 miles which had been set in Brazil in 2018. It also broke the record for the longest duration of a lightning bolt, lasting 17.102 seconds.

  This lightning bolt flashed across Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi during an intense storm in April of 2020. It was recorded through satellites that are able to track lightning flashes during storms.

  These satellites are Geostationary Lightning Mappers. These are satellites that can detect momentary changes in the visual view that implies the presence of lightning. These are the first lightning mappers to be flown in Earth’s orbit.

  The lightning bolt was only named the longest recorded one this year due to the fact that the satellite images needed to be analyzed to confirm the length and duration of the strike.

  This lightning bolt is considered a megaflash. According to the Glossary of Meteorology, a megaflash is “a continuous mesoscale lightning flash with a horizontal path of approximately 100 km or greater.”

   Megaflashes can not happen just anywhere and will typically only occur in mesoscale convective systems which are full of moisture and are continuously overturning. These types of systems make the perfect conditions for the types of lightning bolts.

  Lightning itself is extremely common, but most flashes do not travel more than 10 miles and have durations of less than 1 second. To see a bolt reach the distance that this megaflash did is extremely uncommon.