In June 2020, scientists observed a single lightning flash that was 17.1 seconds, becoming the longest-lasting lightning flash ever recorded. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the unusually long strike took place over Uruguay and northern Argentina. This incident was only one of two record-breaking lightning strikes confirmed by the WMO on Monday.

Record-breaking megaflash lightning documented in U.S. |

There was another record-breaking lightning flash that covered around 477 miles in the southern US on April 29, 2020.

That distance is equal to the distance between London and the German city of Hamburg, and stretched over three US states.

The April 2020 flash was 60 km longer than the previous record.

Meanwhile, the previous longest duration flash was 16.7 seconds.

Randall Cerveny, an expert of weather and climate extremes for the WMO, said in a statement: “These are extraordinary records from single lightning flash events.

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“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.”

WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas said: “Lightning is a major hazard that claims many lives every year.

“The findings highlight important public lightning safety concerns for electrified clouds where flashes can travel extremely large distances.”

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Noted lightning specialist and committee member Ron Holle noted, “these extremely large and long-duration lightning events were not isolated but happened during active thunderstorms.”

This comes as scientists have linked global warming with increased lightning strikes.

In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, they found that the number of strikes recorded during the summer months between 2010 and 2020 had skyrocketed from about 18,000 strikes at the start of the decade to more than 150,000 by 2020.

This proved the study by researchers in 2014, who said that a one degree celsius increase in temperatures would increase the frequency of lightning strikes by 12 percent.

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The lightning lasted for over 17 seconds
The lightning lasted for over 17 seconds (Image: GETTY )

The report’s lead author David Romps explained: “To make lightning a cloud needs to generate an electric field, which it does using water.

“The more water a cloud processes, the more lightning we should expect.
And the more energy available to a cloud, the faster it rises and longer it can keep water drops and ice particles suspended, so, again, the more lightning we should see.”

Scientists have also warned of increased natural disasters in 2022 as climate change is bringing scientists’ worst-case doomsday scenarios to life.

Kai Kornhuber, a climate scientist at Columbia University, told Axios that scientists have tried and failed to predict the severity of disasters due to climate change.

He said: “It seems as if models do underestimate those extremes and particularly these scenarios are really hard to predict and also to prepare for.”