Lightning is a natural phenomena which is extraordinarily beautiful and inspiring to watch. It is indeed a scary thing to see in close encounter due to the deadly bolts. The world’s largest megaflash occurred recently in South America. The expanse of this megaflash is able to blow your mind.
The recent Megaflash in South America sets a World-Record
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has certified two incidents of lightning which reach as world record breaking mega flashes of lightning which happened in Brazil and Argentina during storms. Brazil records the first flash on October 31, 2018 as the first flash of lightning. This lengthens upto the Atlantic, starting from Argentina with a distance of 440 miles. According to the facts this is the distance between Washington D.C and Boston or Chicago and Toronto.
The second mega flash occured in Argentina on March 4, 2019 during a storm. This was a gigantic flash which lasted for 16.73 seconds with an expansion of several hundreds of miles. The flash was longer than an average commercial on television.
For context, regular lightning bolts, like the ones you see striking out from a storm cloud towards the earth, are just a few miles long and last ones to two seconds.
Explanation on the Megaflash
Lightning was considered as a local event in tradition. Storms create an imbalance in the charges of electricity of the air, and the imbalance charges build up till it is charged too much and it sparks between the two charges, and boom- here you get a lightning bolt.
Scientists are learning about the electrical storms in nature by the improvement of detecting and tracking technology, and are able to reach a size of the storms that they were created at first.
These gigantic storms are known as “mesoscale convective systems” (MCS) which are with the ability of sprawling electrical fields. Mega Flashes are made possible by this. You need to make a storm large enough to build in order to create these lightning events. The intense summer storm of South America is the perfectly fitting storm for this flash to happen.
South American MCSs
Mesoscale thunderstorms have the ability of covering at least 60 miles (100km) in length. This is simply the minimum size for it to be an MCS thunderstorm. These thunderstorms generally begin to brew in the evenings at the east of South America’s mountain ranges. They are able to rampage overnight and widen to a stretch across areas with an expansion of 500 miles of width.
Two MCSs merge together in some situations. This makes them stronger as well as enhances their interactions in the electrical fields which enable more lightning to happen. A discharge of lightning discharge in one section is able to disturb another. In such cases, a mega path or a channel is created and it travels horizontally by creating a megaflash.
Not only in South America
Mega Flashes do not occur only in South America, but also in the United States. The technology is growing successfully to map them out in the United States. Mega Flashes were recorded in the United States as follows:
- In Oklahoma on June 20th, 2007; 200 miles
- In Oklahoma on October 23rd, 2017; 300 miles ( not evaluated by WMO)
We will be exactly able to witness more of these types of lightning incidents, with the rapid development of technology. Even though this is a part of climatic changes, proper recording can give us more and more of this.
Technology to study Mega flashing
GOES satellites (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), a system of lightning detection has a “geostationary lightning mapper”, or GLM. These satellites are stationed 22,236 miles away in space and are able to watch over both South and North America as well as the oceans around them. GOES 16 was launched into orbit in November 2016 and has been doing a great job for the detection of megaflash since then.
It is hoped that this new technology will be able to detect more events in the future followed by many more.
Mind Your Safety First
People are requested to use The 30-30 Rule during a thunderstorm. That is to go inside if thunder cracks 30 seconds or less after a flash or a bolt is seen and to stay indoors until you are sure that there isn’t another lighting flash for the next 30 seconds.
Storms are fun filled for watching indoors with the utmost safety and comfort, seated on the couch!