World Record-Long Lightning Bolt Lit Up Three U.S. States

In April 2020, a 768-kilometre lightning bolt split the skies over the Gulf of Mexico’s northwestern shores. After, yes, two years of research, meteorologists have confirmed it as the longest-reaching megaflash ever recorded.

Lightning bolt garners world record

The strike was a cloud-to-cloud event, which occurred 1,000 or more metres above Earth. Satellite imagery shows its span from the Texas coast, across the Louisiana panhandle, and over lower Mississippi.

The length effectively breaks the record established by a 709-kilometre bolt recorded over Brazil in 2018. Experts at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) say that the southern coastal regions of the U.S. and South America are geophysically inclined to produce megaflashes. Very few regions are.

WMO World Record for longest megaflash from April 2020

Image: World Meteorological Organization


According to Arizona State University’s chief of meteorological records, Randall Cerveny, a megaflash of lightning is greater than a typical bolt by orders of magnitude. Most bolts rarely exceed 16 kilometres.

Categorically, they are considered extreme weather events, but scientists say that climate change does not play a role in their formation or frequency. The recent uptick in reports of megaflashes is due to improvements in satellite technology, Cerveny explained.

The WMO is taking the opportunity to remind the world that lightning, while spectacular, is extremely dangerous. It encourages people to seek safe shelter during any electrified storm. “Any time there is thunder heard, it is time to reach a lightning-safe place.”

For more information, check out the WMO’s website and social channels.