- Longest flash by distance: 768 km in America
- Longest flash in duration: 17,102 seconds over Uruguay and Argentina
On April 29, 2020, the longest flash was recorded: it reached 768 km and flashed in the United States over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. This has been confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This distance roughly corresponds to the distance between Berne and London.
The longest flash lasted 17102 seconds. It was measured over Uruguay and Argentina. In terms of their horizontal range, both flashes were called “mega flashes” with a length of several 100 kilometers.
How do you measure these flashes?
Until a few years ago, measuring lightning was only possible with terrestrial systems. On November 19, 2016, the United States installed a new weather satellite, GOES-R, with a so-called “Lightning Mapper” on board.
Environmental records are living proof of the power of nature and also of the progress of science, which is now able to measure such extremes. There are likely larger records and we’ll see them as lightning detection technology improves.
A “lightning chart” is an optical instrument on board a satellite that measures the radiated energy in a given channel and thus “sees” the lightning. A near infrared channel is used.
Until now, Americans only measure lightning from a geostationary satellite. In the next few years, Europe will install the third generation of Meteosat. This generation of weather satellites will also have a “Lightning Mapper” on board. Who knows, maybe there will be new lightning records, for example over Africa.
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