Longest Length and Longest Duration Lightning Strike Ever Recorded
The Marshall Earth Science Office (ESO) played a major role in a study published in the September 2016 edition of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) that establishes two new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) lightning records: Longest Length Lightning Flash (321 km or 199.5 miles on 6/20/2007 in Oklahoma) and Longest Duration Lightning Flash (7.74 seconds on 8/30/2012 in southern France). An ESO researcher, Dr. Timothy Lang, is lead author of the study, and led the science analysis of the Longest Length Flash (shown in the companion graphic), while Marshall Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) stations lent to the Hydrology cycle in the Mediterranean Experiment (HyMeX) field campaign captured the Longest Duration Flash.
The Longest Length Flash occurred in a massive squall line storm that was one of the largest to occur that season. The storm produced a prolific amount of lightning, and also produced nearly 300 observed sprites in the upper atmosphere. The Longest Duration Flash also occurred in a large thunderstorm complex that was extremely electrically active. Both flashes propagated mostly within the lightly raining portions of the thunderstorms.
Based on the results, the authors of the study recommended an alteration of the official American Meteorological Society definition of lightning discharge, which previously put a time limit on its duration. Along with the forthcoming Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) and the International Space Station Lightning Imaging Sensor (ISS-LIS), this study is helping to change how lightning flashes are defined by the science community, with improved recognition of how they can last much longer and travel much farther than previously thought. This has important implications for lightning safety and protection.
A link to the BAMS study can be found here:
A link to the WMO press release can be found here: