Cookie Policy Our experts’ best advice: when thunder roars, go indoors.”, The current standard advice is the 30/30 rule, according to Kelly Kissel at the Associated Press. Vote Now! But none of these areas had many superbolts, according to the paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Most of these bolts max out at about six miles in length. The furthest reported distance record has been confirmed as a lightning bolt over Oklahoma in June 2007, which covered a horizontal distance of … Originating at an altitude of six miles, the lightning touched down in several locations on its journey and was visible as far away as Colorado. and lots and lots of energy gets released. There could be a lower risk—the lower the flash rate—but it’s not ‘no-risk.’”. Scientists said the lightning was recorded across an area 100 miles wide. Both records are detailed in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. “The end result reinforces critical safety information regarding lightning, specifically that lightning flashes can travel huge distances from their parent thunderstorms. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email. “It’s going to depend on the kind of thunderstorm. These bolts carry much more energy and travel up to 25 miles and carry ten times the energy of a negative bolt, up to 1 billion volts. Clues may lie in the frequency with which they strike: The most superbolts ever recorded were in late 2013, followed closely by 2014. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. Instead, superbolts mostly occurred over the Eastern North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Andes, with regions of strong activity in and around Japan and along the equator in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The United Nation's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has just announced that the longest lightning strike on record was a 2007 bolt in Oklahoma that stretched 321 km (200 miles) - almost reaching from one side of the state to the other. “These kinds of rules need to be looked at,” Timothy Lang, from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center tells Kissel. Continue So just how does a lightning bolt span 200 miles? Privacy Statement On June 20, 2007, during a thunder storm in Oklahoma, a lighting bolt streaked across half the state. A second extreme occurred in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France, on August 30, 2012. This year so far, lightning has killed 35 individuals in the states. If storms are particularly strong and atmospheric conditions are just right, these powerful thunderbolts can travel tens or hundreds of miles. Compared to regular lightning, superbolts showed some unexpected patterns. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. From a distance, lightning can be beautiful, fascinating and terrifying—even surpassing the fear factor of a potential Sharknado. The Inventory team is rounding up deals you don’t want to miss, now through Cyber Monday. But according to the National Weather Service, roughly five percent of lightning strikes are “positive lightning” in which a positive charge is discharged from top of the cloud to the ground. Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. Click here to browse. The network of sensors waits for the electromagnetic radiation from lightning, and uses at least five of the 80+ stations to find where and when the bolt hit. The researchers cited evidence that, for some reason, the ocean seems to enhance lightning bolts’ energy. Superbolts, the strongest lightning bolts, occur at surprising times and in surprising places, a new study has found. The two lightning incidents mark the first time that the World Meteorological Organization has included lightning in its Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes. Most lightning is considered “negative lighting” in which a cloud unleashes a negative charge to the ground. Most powerful electrical storm on record detected over India Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. That’s about 0.0005 percent of … The researchers analyzed 2 billion lightning strikes that were recorded from 2010 to 2018 by the global sensor network called the World Wide Lightning Location Network (of which the study’s first author, the University of Washington’s Robert Holzworth, is the director). It's official, the United States can no longer brag about hosting the longest lightning strike ever recorded. These extremes and others prompted the WMO to formally amend the definition of lightning from a “series of electrical processes taking place within one second” to a “series of electrical processes taking place continuously.”, It's also causing weather mavens to rethink lightning safety advice. Record-Breaking Lightning Bolts Spark Excitement. And while you may associate the strongest thunderstorms with summertime near a coast, an analysis of lightning data found that superbolts are most likely to occur from November to February on the open ocean, far from the places where lightning occurs most often. Smithsonian Institution. According to Angela Fritz at The Washington Post, the average number of lightning deaths in the U.S. have been under 50 per year since 2000, well below the 400 people per year who died in strikes in the 1940s. But these records also forced scientists to rethink the definition of lightning. At some point it will find a path (high wave or just flash over?) Why, they don’t know—but maybe more studies of these superbolts will help out. The spacecraft spotted a total of eight lightning flashes. ​. After seeing a flash of lightning, if the thunder rumbles within 30 seconds, go indoors for 30 minutes until the danger passes. Scientists define superbolts as lightning bolts a thousand times stronger than average. or You really need to know where it (lightning) is occurring. The researchers picked out the bolts that were a thousand times more energetic than the average lightning strike for this analysis, carefully weeding out any potential erroneous data. “[B]ecause of continued improvements in meteorology and climatology technology and analysis, climate experts can now monitor and detect weather events such as specific lightning flashes in much greater detail than ever before,” Randall Cerveny, Rapporteur of Climate and Weather Extremes for WMO says in the press release. California Do Not Sell My Info Give a Gift. Advertising Notice For now, the … Despite its ubiquity, lightning remains a perplexing topic with various potential drivers that sometimes shows strange radioactive properties. Focusing on only the most robust detections of lightning strikes from 2010 to 2018, Dr. Holzworth and his team tagged 8,171 superbolts above one million Joules. And it’s cool that something so common can still be so fascinating. They already knew that lightning is 10 times more likely to strike land than water and is typically concentrated over “three chimneys,” located in tropical and subtropical Americas and Africa plus the southeast Asian island nations. On that day, a single lightning flash persisted for 7.74 seconds, setting the record for lightning duration. On June 20, 2007, during a thunder storm in Oklahoma, a lighting bolt streaked across half the state. Now, a pair of extreme records recently certified by the World Meteorological Organization show that lightning has an even longer reach than previously thought. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines. That claim now belongs to Brazil, whose southern skies were ablaze with jagged arcs of electricity back on Halloween Night , October 31, 2018, when a single 440-mile-long bolt blazed out of the spooky, supercharged atmosphere. This is the longest lightning bolt ever recorded, stretching 199.5 miles from outside Tulsa to the Texas border, according to a press release. The researchers picked out the bolts that were a thousand times more energetic than the average lightning strike for this analysis, carefully weeding out any potential erroneous data. This sounds logical to me; energy builds up but there is no high point (sea is a pretty flat surface) so it can’t/won’t discharge at normal energies and keeps building up to higher and higher energies. Terms of Use Long Before Trees Overtook the Land, Earth Was Covered by Giant Mushrooms, Melting Ice in Norway Reveals Ancient Arrows, Hegra, an Ancient City in Saudi Arabia Untouched for Millennia, Makes Its Public Debut, The Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts in 2020, Why the Myths of Plymouth Dominate the American Imagination, Fourteen Fun Facts About Love and Sex in the Animal Kingdom, A History of Felines, as Narrated and Illustrated by a Cat, The Genetics Behind Venus, the Mysterious Two-Faced Cat, The Myths of the Thanksgiving Story and the Lasting Damage They Imbue, The Inspiring Quest to Revive the Hawaiian Language, The New Science of Our Ancient Bond With Dogs, Why Seagrass Could Be the Ocean's Secret Weapon Against Climate Change.