World record: Bolt of lightning was 200 miles long, experts say

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Lightning doesn't strike the same place twice-- or so the expression goes-- but sometimes it does something amazing enough to break a record. That’s the case with two extraordinary bolts that the World Meteorological Organization has ruled are both the longest in length and duration on the books.

In June in Oklahoma in 2007, a bolt of lightning that was an incredible 199.5 miles long and had a duration of nearly 6 seconds struck across the state horizontally from east to west, according to the WMO, a United Nations agency.

And in the south of France in August, 2012, a bolt lasted an astonishing 7.74 second long.

Both of the events set world records, the WMO said. The superlative bolts were recorded using monitoring networks in both locations; the Oklahoma one is called OKLMA.


“This investigation highlights the fact that, because 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, chief rapporteur of climate and weather extremes for the WMO, said in a statement.

“The end result reinforces critical safety information regarding lightning, specifically that lightning flashes can travel huge distances from their parent thunderstorms,” he added. “Our experts’ best advice: when thunder roars, go indoors.”

The record-setting bolts and the monitoring networks are described in detail a forthcoming study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Follow Rob Verger on Twitter: @robverger