Nearly 500-Mile-Long Lightning Bolt Breaks Record

Feb 4, 2022

extra-juicelightning bolt that stretched 477.2 miles has set a new record. The strike blazed through the skies over three southern US states. It is the longest strike ever recorded. 

The “megastrike” was recorded April 19, 2020. It broke the previous record, a 440-mile-long firebolt in Brazil in 2018, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.

The WMO this week also confirmed that another lightning strike on June 18, 2020, broke a different record, for time, not distance. It flashed across northern Argentina and Uruguay for 17.1 seconds. That's the longest time ever for a strike.

Scientists say such events are rare. Normally, lightning travels no farther than 10 miles. Most strikes last under a second.

“These are extraordinary records from single lightning flash events,” said an official at WMO. “Environmental extremes are living measurements of the power of nature.”

Lightning occurs when drops of water and ice inside a storm cloud collide. The collision creates positive and negative electrical charges at the top and bottom of the cloud. Then, when the negative charge strengthens, energy gets released. It travels across the air to an object with an opposite charge. A cloud or the ground has the opposite charge.

The National Weather Service says nearly 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the US every year. Each year, lightning injures hundreds of Americans. An average of 49 people a year die from the strikes, the agency says.

Photo from André Karwath courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Choose the statement that best summarizes the main idea of the article: (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. Lightning strikes are rare.
b. Two lightning strikes in 2020 set separate records.
c. The World Meteorological Organization confirms lightning strike records.
d. 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the US every year.
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