Two new historical records were recognized last week. The first, and most impressive, was that the longest known lightning strike to date has been recorded. 321.1 kilometers in distance, literally from one end of Oklahoma to the other. This lightning struck in 2007, but it was not until now that the record has been recognized. This lightning strike also lasted 5.7 seconds, which would have been a new record had it not been for the second record.

This second one is that of the longest lasting lightning. Recorded in France in 2012, and lasting 7.74 seconds, it is the longest lightning to light up the sky since records have been kept. Both lightning strikes have prompted the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to change the definition of lightning. It was originally “…a series of electrical processes occurring in less than one second…” to “…a series of electrical processes occurring continuously…”.

Lightning strikes like this are extremely rare. Although there are about 50 lightning strikes per second around the world, the conditions that have to be met for someone to record them are very improbable. In fact, this is the great difficulty that scientists have in studying this natural effect. And the same is true for studying the lightning that forms in volcanoes. It is so difficult to record them properly that there is hardly any information on how they are formed.