400-mile-long lightning strike takes world record

The epic strike occurred on Halloween night in 2018 over Brazil
400-mile-long lightning strike A lightning bolt is an impressive sight at any time. But a lightning bolt that can stretch from Winnipeg to Saskatoon? That's something else! (© Stephen Noakes - Dreamstime.com)


Halloween is well known as a mystical, spooky evening. So maybe we should've seen this coming?

But new analysis has proven that the longest ever recorded bolt of lightning happened on Halloween night on 2018, mainly over the southern edge of Brazil. Its length? An astonishing 700 kilometres (440 miles).

For context, that is the distance between Quebec City and Toronto. All covered by a single bolt of energy!

Thunderstorm hot spot

400-mile-long lightning bolt

This satellite image shows the record-breaking lightning. (Courtesy of the WMO)

So what goes into making a super-long lightning strike?

A key ingredient in epic thunderstorms is high humidity. The extra moisture leads to the battle between warm and cool air inside the clouds that creates the static electricity behind lightning. Friction is caused by ice crystals and water droplets hitting each other inside clouds.

And because much of South America is extremely humid, this makes it a prime location for record-breaking lightning. In fact, the place with the most lightning in the world is Lake Maracaibo in nearby Venezuela. It averages a thunderstorm on 300 out of 365 days a year. Whoa!

Just the tip of the thundercloud?

The report of the record-breaking lightning comes from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It used new weather-monitoring satellites to record and analyze storms around the globe.

It also found a new record for the longest lasting lightning strike: a bolt over Argentina that lasted 17 seconds. Imagine that! Look up at the sky and count slowly to 17 and picture a flash of lightning staying there that long!

Because this weather monitoring technology is so new, meteorologists think that these discoveries could just be the beginning—that thunderstorms and lightning are regularly more powerful that we even realize.

Though if you ask us, 400-mile-long lightning bolts are impressive enough already, nature. You're super powerful, we believe you!


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