Lightning bolt that leapt across three US states is confirmed as longest ever

The rare megaflash covered a distance of 768km in April 2020

A single lightning bolt that leapt across three US states has been identified as the longest ever, the UN weather agency said on Tuesday.

Dubbed a megaflash, the rare low-rate horizontal discharge covered 768km between clouds in Texas to Mississippi in April 2020. It was detected by scientists using satellite technology and its distance – beating the previous record by 60km – has been confirmed by a committee of the UN's World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

"That trip by air[plane] would take a couple of hours and in this case the distance was covered in a matter of seconds," WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis said.

Another megaflash that occurred above Uruguay and Argentina in June 2020 also set a new record, as the longest-lasting lightning flash, coming in at 17.1 seconds, the WMO said.

While these two newly catalogued megaflashes never touched the ground, they serve as a reminder of the dangers of a weather phenomenon that kills hundreds of people a year.

“We reiterate our message: when thunder roars, when you see lightning – go indoors. Don’t seek shelter in a beach hut, don’t stand under a tree,” Ms Nullis said. – Reuters