back to article Shazam! Two world-record lightning events recognised

The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations' weather watching agency, has certified two new world records for lightning. The organisation measures two qualities of lightning: duration of a flash, and distance for a single flash. In 2016 the outfit awarded world records to a flash that blasted across France for 7 …

  1. Tom 7


    that neither of them would be visible in anything like their entirety from the ground.

    Never quite got over the awe of having a pane of glass blown out of one of our windows, not by the thunder crack but by the steam explosion the lightning caused in a tree a couple of hundred yards from the house. It hit an ash tree and blew a limb some two foot across where it joined the trunk a good 25 foot for a 10 foot drop. My slightly mad father calculated that the joint which exploded had the energy of a stick of dynamite. I just wanted him to make a time machine so I could go back and watch it from a safe distance!

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    17 seconds ?

    Was that 17 seconds of flash from starting point to ending point, or was it a bolt that started and then "travelled" to its endpoint ?

    Imagine witnessing a lightning bolt like that. Flash ! Hey, lightning. Wow, see how long it is ? Whoa, it's still there. Hey, I even have time to fish my phone out of my pocket and snap a pic.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: 17 seconds ?

      > Was that 17 seconds of flash from starting point to ending point

      The linked WMO article states "a flash that developed continuously over northern Argentina", so I imagine that means it was "on" and visible for almost 17 seconds across the sky.

      What boggles my mind is the amount of energy it took, in both cases!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 17 seconds ?

        "What boggles my mind is the amount of energy it took, in both cases!"

        Nature has a habit of doing things we barely believe are possible and can't reproduce, and dissipate incredible amounts of energy. Being able to monitor from space has taught us that we know even less than we thought, as we slowly discover that "once in a lifetime" events are actually relative common. So-called "rogue waves", for instance, are far more common than we could have imagined just a few years ago. In fact, not many years ago, they were only myth and legend!

        Nature is awesome! (And I use "awesome" in it's proper sense, not just as a synonym for "good")

    2. swm

      Re: 17 seconds ?

      I was once (70+ years ago) watching a lightning storm. Directly overhead I saw a line of lightning appear. It then extended to a fork, then more forks until a fully branched lightning tree was constructed. Then the whole thing suddenly blinked off. Took about 5 seconds from start to finish. There was no sound during or after this display.

  3. edjimf

    Lightning from the air is amazing

    Flying back from Crete once, we were at 40,000ft over Croatia and had a grandstand view of an electrical storm.

    The Captain announced it over the PA system, telling those of us on the right hand side of the plane that we could see "Mother Nature in all her glory" and not to worry as the storm was about 100 miles away.

    Mesmerising to watch from afar, wouldn't have fancied being underneath it!.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: Lightning from the air is amazing

      As a four year old kid I sheltered under a tree from some torrential rain with a couple of friends of the sameish age. For some reason the three of us started running home and about 30 yds from the tree there was a brilliant flash and near instantaneous <font size = huge> CRACK </font> as the tree was struck and the three of us were spotted doing near subsonic speeds home! My mum had been watching for me out the window and said she couldn't believe the speed we travelled at or the look on my face!

      Since then I've always had a great respect for lightning but its easy to find safe places to watch it. Once at home we popped out into the eye of a storm where there was no wind and no rain and yet the storm raged round us pummelling the hills with lightning and every now and then sending bolts down to the flat river valley in between the two high rows of hills. These bolts were huge and some looked like they expanded to a couple of feet across and red after a moment. Other times sitting in a restaurant in the Caribbean watching an evening storm building not long after a glorious sunset and slowly building in intensity as it drifted straight towards the restaurant until eventually we paid the bill holding tightly onto the notes as we handed them over in the suddenly raging wind and made it to the much safer bar next door as the storm hit taking out all the power so you could enjoy the full majesty of bolts of lightning every two or three seconds is something not to be missed. Totally immersive experience - to well over knee height once the drains blocked!

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lightning from the air is amazing Shazam!

        If you hadn't run you could have turned into Captain Marvel.*

        * Or maybe not. Superhero origins are tricky. I'm still looking for a radioactive spider.

        1. N0083rp00f

          Re: Lightning from the air is amazing Shazam!

          Radioactive spiders are actually quite common if you know where to look.

          Mind you most of us won't have access to those locations due to security issues and having the good sense not to go to those places in the first place.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge


    Seeing lightning from the ISS is pretty amazing. NASA used to broadcast downward camera feeds to fill time on their channel. I don't know if they still do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ISS

      They do but it seems to be hosted by IBM:

      (linked from the main NASA TV site: )

      1. JDPower666

        Re: ISS

        Thought that had been turned off, cheers

      2. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: ISS


        The previous ISS webcam (HDEV) had been switched off several years ago, and NASA has been broadcasting recorded old footage since. Seems they have put up a new webcam, EHDC, and that's great! Thanks AdamT for the link!

        I loved having this running on a screen in the background, like a window, it's so soothing...

      3. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: ISS

        That's great. But the audio doesn't seem to work.

        WTH? One of the image quality options is Audio Only !

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, there goes that saying.

    I guess "Fast as lightning!" can now mean anything up to 17 seconds.

    1. Dante Alighieri

      Re: Well, there goes that saying.

      Ussain Bolt now officially faster than lightning

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Well, there goes that saying.

        Look at the distance that 17 second bolt traveled in the map provided in the article. He's still a few orders of magnitude short of that crown.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge



    I get my coat...

  7. ShadowSystems

    My lightning experience...

    I was about 15 when I went to visit a friend in Texas over the Summer. July in Texas can be considered a tad warm. *Cough* Anyway, Summer storms are common & they tend to be full of lightning strikes.

    My friend & I are sitting in his living room watching the storm out his front window when lightning strikes the foreclosed house across the street. Retina-searing flash of light, eardrum-shredding detonation of sound, and then the place exploded. Wood & glass in a cloud of shrapnel, a fireball curling out from beneath the edges of the newly lifted-free roof, and smoke like Satan had farted in multiple jets towards the sky.

    We hit the floor, his window sprays our backs, & the living room gets showered in glass powder, wood pulp, & rain blowing in through the very large hole.

    His mom comes running down the stairs to check on us just as we're extracting ourselves from beneath the layers of debris. At first we couldn't hear her shouting at us, but eventually our ears stopped ringing enough to make out the gist.

    The house across the street did *not* have the lightning rod on the roof, fat copper cable down the side, Earth spike burried in the dirt to channel such strikes. The bolt had hit the tv antenna, gone down through the electrical wiring, sparked off the gas line, and poof went the whole thing.

    We nailed up wood to cover his broken window, swept up all the crap, & did something I later learned was so rare in Texas that it was a small miracle that their home even had the needed infrastructure: they turned the HEAT on to help dry out the living room.

    The carpet & furniture was dry by morning, our hearing had returned, and his mom finally stopped claiming it was all *MY* fault somehow. "$Shadow, it can't be coincidence that you come to visit & Mother Nature picks that time to try & smite your ass. I should make you sit outside for the next one."

    I offered to sit on her car if she did, so she decided to let me stay indoors. =-)p

    I had already had a huge respect for thunder & lightning storms before, but after that event, you couldn't drag me outside during one with a team of horses & an over-powered cattle prod. Nope-a Nope-a NOPE!

    *Runs & hides under the bed hoping Mother Nature can't get me*

  8. H in The Hague

    Tripped the RCD

    A few decades ago I lived in a flat and watched a thunderstorm pass overhead. Lightning then hit the drain cover in the road outside, so the bolt was right in front of me, less than 10 m away - made me jump. The lights in the flat went out as the induced current had tripped the RCD/ELCB.

    We had two computers connected to a printer by fairly long serial cables so I expected all that kit (running at the time of the strike) to be toast. To my amazement both the computers and the printer survived!

  9. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    Houston Fires Lightning Cannon at Mobile, Misses

  10. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    In the late 90s, in Oklahoma in the US, I was on my way home from work. Swing shift, so it was between 11pm and midnight. We had a lightning storm in progress just north of where I lived, which was 20 miles north of Tulsa. There were so many lightning strikes coming down that I had to wear my sunglasses amd put the sunshade down to see the road. I mean it was constant, like 2-3 separate strikes per second, every second, for at least half an hour. These weren't tiny little flashes either, we're talking big fat bolts that lasted a second or two each. I've never seen anything like it before or since. Could have driven home without headlights on a road that was tree lined and normally pitch black at night. It was like God was arc welding Kansas back on.

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