World lightning records include Oklahoma

World lightning records include Oklahoma

Quick Facts

  • For a single lightning flash, the world's longest distance is 199.5 miles across Oklahoma in June of 2007
  • The longest duration of a flash is 7.74 seconds across southern France in 2012
  • 11 of 12 lightning mapping systems in Oklahoma were active during the record lightning strike

Seeing lightning in Oklahoma is nothing new. As storms roll through Oklahoma and Green Country, lightning is typically seen.

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On Tuesday, September 13, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released documentation that verified the lightning strike in Oklahoma and France as the world's longest for distance and duration. After looking at this information, the WMO also has released a recommendation for the definition of a lightning flash to be updated with more inclusive wording.

Longest Distance

In the early morning hours of June 20, 2007, just after 1 a.m. local time, the lightning strike started and lasted almost 6 seconds over central Oklahoma. The lightning flash started near Tulsa and moved back towards the west.

Map showing the distance of the world's longest (distance) lightning strike. Map provided by the World Meteorolgical Organization (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0061.1)
Map showing the distance of the world's longest (distance) lightning strike. Map provided by the World Meteorolgical Organization (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0061.1)

The flash occurred during a mesoscale convective system (MCS) that is typically seen in Oklahoma during the summer months. A mesoscale convective system is a group of thunderstorms that acts more as a system than individual storms.

An MCS can spread across an entire state and last for several hours. That is what was going on in Oklahoma as seen in the picture.

Map showing the radar with lightning data. Map provided by the World Meteorolgical Organization (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0061.1)
Map showing the radar with lightning data. Map provided by the World Meteorolgical Organization (http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0061.1)

The picture shows a collage of radar across the state of Oklahoma with lightning data (black dots).

Since the WMO has verified the changes to the lightning records, it tells meteorologists and other people that the study of lightning detection and measurement is continuing to improve, lightning safety is still key even if you are not in seeing rain at a certain time, and that lightning can travel for large distances.