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If you thought that every lightning that strikes the Earth is the same, then you were wrong.
Namely, super lightning produce more energy than all other natural sources combined, and one such mega-flash in 2018 stretched across the sky for about 700 kilometers, while the accompanying lightning strike lasted 17 seconds.
Scientists have confirmed the existence of "super lightning" that can be up to 1,000 times brighter than the average lightning strike, and produce more energy than all solar panels and wind turbines in the United States combined.
In two separate studies of extreme lightning, researchers were amazed at the force they release much more often than previously thought.
The so-called "superbolts" were first discovered in the 1970s, when they were assumed to have only 100 times stronger brightness than a typical lightning strike.
Now, however, using satellite observations, researchers from the American National Laboratory "Los Alamos" have discovered much more.
Hotspots "super lightning"
Peterson and his colleague Erin Lai analyzed data from NASA's geostationary thunder map, which records lightning with orbital meteorological satellites every two milliseconds, looking for lightning that shines 100 times stronger than average.
They discovered approximately two million such atmospheric events that meet the criteria. More precisely, it was one of 300 lightning bolts during two years.
Many super lightning bolts "shoot" with a power of at least 100 gigawatts of power. For comparison, in 2018, all American solar panels and wind turbines produced 163 gigawatts of power.
The authors, however, warn that they may have missed lighter but shorter lightning bolts, as they counted only flashes that lasted two milliseconds or longer.
When they then analyzed the lightning data 1,000 times brighter than average, they found several hotspots of "superbolt" activity, including the central part of the United States, as well as the Rio de la Plata basin, which stretches over parts of Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil.
How to harness the power of lightning
Meanwhile, another study that analyzed 12 years of data downloaded from the Fast Transmission Event Temporary (FORTE) satellite counted superflashes of 100 gigawatts or more.
One thunderbolt even exceeded 3 terawatts of power - which is thousands of times stronger than ordinary lightning detected from space.
Understanding these immensely powerful events is crucial to improving our understanding of the planet's atmosphere. There are also several projects exploring the possibility of harnessing lightning power for practical use, but the use of "superbolts" with existing technology is still a long way off.
It was initially thought that one thunderbolt near South Africa in 1979 was a nuclear bomb that detonated. Another that hit Newfoundland in 1978 left damage "as small as" a mile in diameter, including shredded trees, distorted television antennas, destroyed electrical transformers, and even craters.