Context: According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Brazil and Argentina set world records in 2018 and 2019 respectively after recording lightning strikes that travelled the farthest and lasted the longest. 

More on the news: 

  • The findings of the United Nations weather agency, were published in the journal American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters ahead of International Lightning Safety Day. 
  • Brazil recorded a lightning strike that travelled a distance of 709 kilometres, while Argentina recorded a strike that lasted for 16.73 seconds.


  • The lightning flashes that have now entered the record books are known as ‘Megaflashes’ in scientific parlance.
  • They are defined as horizontal mesoscale lightning discharges that reach hundreds of kilometres in length.

Lightning strikes in India:

  • The WMO’s findings come even as 92 people were killed in lightning strikes in Bihar recently.
  • The state is second after Uttar Pradesh with the maximum number of deaths due to lightning. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) report, the number of lightning days across India have been increasing significantly every month. 
    • In fact, lightning strikes kill more people in India than any other extreme weather event.
  • Such fatalities could be avoided if states share IMD’s forecast on lightning with people on time.
  • Advisory: According to the WMO, if the time between a lightning flash and thunder is less than 30 seconds, people should stay indoors and wait 30 minutes after the last observed flash to resume outdoor activities.

About lightning:

  1. Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions in the atmosphere or ground temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of energy.
  2. This discharge may produce a wide range of electromagnetic radiation, from very hot plasma created by the rapid movement of electrons to brilliant flashes of visible light in the form of black-body radiation. 
  3. Lightning causes thunder, a sound from the shock wave which develops as gases in the vicinity of the discharge experience a sudden increase in pressure. 
  4. Lightning occurs commonly during thunderstorms and other types of energetic weather systems, but volcanic lightning can also occur during volcanic eruptions.
  5. The three main kinds of lightning are distinguished by where they occur: either inside a single thundercloud, between two different clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. 
  6. Many other observational variants are recognized, including 
    • Heat lightning, which can be seen from a great distance but not heard; 
    • Dry lightning, which can cause forest fires; and 
    • Ball lightning, which is rarely observed scientifically.


World Meteorological Organisation

About WMO

  • WMO was created in 1950 as an intergovernmental organization.  
  • It became a specialized agency of the United Nations, in 1951, for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences.  WMO is the UN system‟s authoritative voice on weather, climate and water.  
  • Secretariat - Geneva, Switzerland.  
  • Through its members, WMO provides forecasts and early warnings to nations, which help prevent and mitigate disasters.  


  • WMO monitors and forecasts the transport of chemical and oil spills, forest fires, volcanic ash, haze and nuclear isotopes.  
  • It also draws world attention to the depletion of the ozone layer.