Colossal Lightning Bolts Set Size Records

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Record-Breaking Lightning Bolts Spark Excitement

by Nora McGreevy/Smithsonianmag.com

On October 31, 2018, a spidery web of lightning unfurled over Brazil, stretching 440 miles across the sky—a length roughly equivalent to the distance between Boston and Washington, D.C. The colossal flash set the record for longest-in-distance lightning strike recorded to date.

The electrifying event is one of two record-setting strikes recently confirmed by a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) committee, according to a statement. Another bolt lit up over northern Argentina on March 4, 2019, for a whopping 16.73 seconds, setting a record for the longest recorded duration of a lightning strike.

“These are mind-boggling, incredible extremes,” Randall Cerveny, a member of the WMO committee and a scientist at Arizona State University, tells Matthew Cappucci for the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Researchers from the WMO used satellite imagery to confirm the record strikes. The team published their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters this month.

Lightning bolts result from a buildup of unbalanced electric charges in storm systems, according to NASA. Normally, the flashes measure just a few miles long and last for just one or two seconds, reports Cappucci.

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