Nature 20 July 2012 Lightning is even cooler than you think Just like an iceberg, the visible part of a lightning strike is just a tiny fraction of the whole. Print HTML The visible part of a lightning strike is just a fraction of the total flash. The bolt seen above appears to extend from the cloud directly above the Washington Monument – but it actually begins almost 15km away, in Rockville, Maryland, and is part of a total network spanning 80km and spread over an area of 500km2, according to the Washington Post's Kevin Ambrose: The flash initiated ~22,000 feet above Landover, Md., before striking ground in the District near Brookland and again near Rock Creek Park. The flash was well over 50 miles long. The upper branches propagated horizontally at ~40,000 feet all the way west to Rockville, Md. From the lightning data points, Scott created 2D and 3D vector representations of the lightning: The Post also has more detail of the methodology, as well as a 3D model of the full strike. › What does it mean to be LGBT and Muslim in the UK? The tiny visible part of a 100km-long lighting strike. Photograph: Kevin Ambrose, via Washington Post Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter. From only £1 per week Subscribe More Related articles Why have men become so lonely – and how does it affect their health? Connected - to save time, money and lives Can Trident be hacked?