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Lightning ‘superbolts’ can be 1,000 times brighter than ordinary flashes

Earlier this year, researchers confirmed a pair of ultra long-distance lightning strikes in South America that spanned up to 442 miles and lasted for nearly seventeen seconds. Ongoing research has turned to how much power these fierce discharges contain, as well as their relative rarity.

A new paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres found that roughly one third of one percent, or one in every 300 lightning strikes, could be classified as a superbolt.

A superbolt is any flash of lightning that is one hundred times brighter than average.

Hunting for superbolts

The study was led by Michael Peterson, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His team examined two years’ worth of data from the GOES weather satellites, which peer down on North and South America with ultra high-resolution. The satellites have a device known as the “Geostationary

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