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Michael Peterson and Geoffrey Stano

Abstract

Lightning megaflashes extending over >100-km distances have been observed by the Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs) on NOAA’s R-series Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). The hazards posed by megaflashes are unclear, however, because of limitations in the GLM data. We address these by reprocessing GOES-16 GLM measurements from 1 January 2018 to 15 January 2020 and integrating them with Earth Networks Global Lightning Network (ENGLN) observations. ENGLN verified 194 880 GLM megaflashes as natural lightning. Of these, 127 479 flashes occurred following the October 2018 GLM software update that standardized GLM timing. Reprocessed GLM/ENGLN lightning maps from these postupdate cases provide a comprehensive view of how individual megaflashes evolve. This megaflash dataset is used to generate statistics that describe their hazards. The average megaflash produces 5–7 cloud-to-ground (CG) strokes that are spread across 40%–50% of the flash extent. As flash extent increases beyond 100 km, megaflashes become concentrated in key hot-spot regions in North and South America while the number of CG and intracloud events per flash and the overall peak current increase. CGs in the larger megaflashes occur over 80% of the flash extent measured by GLM, and the majority contain regions where the megaflash is the only lightning activity in the preceding hour. These statistics demonstrate that there is no safe location below an electrified cloud that is producing megaflashes, and current lightning safety guidance is not always sufficient to mitigate megaflash hazards.

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