Which country is the lightning capital of the world?

And the answer: Venezuela.

Photo credit: NASA. 

Lake Maracaibo in Zulia, Venezuela is known as the lightning capital of the world, with lightning strikes almost 300 days a year. The state flag is emboldened with a lightning bolt to honor the "never-ending" storm.

Calling all lightning lovers! Pack your sunglasses for Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, a lake which receives so much lightning it has earned the nickname “Lighthouse of Maracaibo.” This tidal estuary is nearly 36 million years old, and was once the largest in South America. Today, the lightning hotspot amasses over 1.2 million bolts of lightning per year!

This weather phenomenon is called Catatumbo lightning, named for the tributary Catatumbo river. Located in northwest Venezuela along the Andes Mountains, the unique geography of the location causes cool mountain breezes to join with the warm humid air over the lake. Geographically, a warm lake and a tall mountain make excellent locations for lightning to occur. This is especially true in the tropics, where the warm sun further heats the water. The result? Lightning, and a lot of it.

Catatumbo lightning is so bright that the glowing produced by this lightning display can be observed from over 250 miles away. In this sense, the lake has lived up to its nickname as a lighthouse— according to NASA, “ten minutes of Catatumbo Lightning could illuminate all of South America.”

Learn more about Lake Maracaibo and its lightning here.


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