Longest lightning bolt ever recorded strikes over the Gulf Coast

A new world record was confirmed for last year’s lighting strike over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 12:04 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2022 at 12:06 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A record 440.6 mile lightning strike that occurred in Brazil stood for two years. Then, in April of 2020, a +500 mile storm settled over the Gulf Coast producing a lightning strike that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) measured at 477.2 miles. The confirmation of both strikes used the maximum great circle distance methodology to determine bolt length, which properly accounts for the Earth’s curvature over such long distances.

A look at the longest lightning bolt ever recorded. It spanned over 477 miles and covered the...
A look at the longest lightning bolt ever recorded. It spanned over 477 miles and covered the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi skies April 29th 2020.(NOAA)

Another new record, lightning bolt duration, was also confirmed over Uruguay and Argentina. The new record of 17.1 seconds set in June of 2020 tops the old record of 16.73 seconds which was set one year prior.

These are extraordinary records from single lightning flash events. Environmental extremes are living measurements of the power of nature, as well as scientific progress in being able to make such assessments. It is likely that even greater extremes still exist, and that we will be able to observe them as lightning detection technology improves.

Professor Randall Cerveny, rapporteur of Weather and Climate Extremes for WMO

Neither record being broken has any ties to climate change. Both systems developed in areas prone to the larger and intense Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) thunderstorms, the Great Plains here in North America and the La Plata region of South America. Topography and air dynamics in these regions naturally creates prime conditions for these huge thunderstorms.

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