Trivia

Hard

The Most Prolific Lightning Storms On Earth Occur Where?

South Africa
Venezuela
Russia
Japan
Lightning strikes above the Catatumbo river.
Thechemicalengineer/Wikimedia

Answer: Venezuela

In the country of Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, there is a phenomenon which layman and meteorologists alike have called the greatest light show on Earth.

There you’ll find one of the most electrically active places on Earth. Approximately 300 nights out of the year, lightning streaks across the sky almost continually all night, with lightning flashes occurring over 500 times per square mile per year. The earliest record of the lightning in the area is from a poem written at the end of the 16th century, but presumably, the conditions that produced the lightning then (and now) existed long before people were recording it in writing.

While numerous explanations for the phenomenon have been proposed over the years, the best current explanation is that a low-level jet stream transports moisture-rich air from the Caribbean Sea to Lake Maracaibo where it slams into the mountain ridges cupping three sides of the lake. With nowhere to go, it rises rapidly, creating ideal conditions for a storm. So ideal, they happen like clockwork night after night.

Although some of the lightning arcs to the ground, the majority of lightning bolts arc from one cloud to another high in the atmosphere. The lightning is often described as being eerily silent, but that’s because of the elevation and how bright the lightning storms are. You can see the activity at a distance well beyond the range you can hear it. For people close to the storm, it’s just as loud and jarring as you’d imagine.

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