Catatumbo lightning


11:15 AM

1 min read
Catatumbo lightning Blog Image


A convergence of several factors give rise to the unique conditions required for Catatumbo lightning.

About Catatumbo lightning:

  • It is a mesmerising natural phenomenon that occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where lightning strikes almost continuously.
  • This phenomenon primarily happens at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, where it meets Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in Venezuela.
  • How does it occurs?
    • Warm, moist air from the Caribbean Sea is pushed towards the Andes mountains, where it collides with cooler air descending from the peaks.
    • This collision creates a perfect storm of sorts, as the warmer air is forced to rise rapidly by the shape of the local landscape. And as it does, it cools and condenses, forming towering cumulonimbus clouds.
    • Meanwhile, the combination of strong winds and temperature differentials generates electrical charges within these clouds.
    • The cumulonimbus clouds — sometimes reaching heights of more than 5 km — load up on static electricity.
    • When the electrical potential within the clouds becomes too great, it discharges in the form of lightning.
  • Catatumbo lightning is distinguished by its frequency and duration: the strikes occur for up to 160 nights in a year, with an average of 28 lightning strikes per minute at its peak. Thanks to this constant flow of current, the area has earned the title of “the lightning capital of the world”.

Key facts about Lake Maracaibo

  • It is located in Venezuela and is the largest lake in Latin America.
  • It is also among the oldest water bodies on the planet. Its proximity to the Andes Mountains and the Caribbean Sea creates a unique geographical setup that plays a crucial role in the frequency of lightning in the region.

Q1: What is a severe thunderstorm? 

A thunderstorm is classified as “severe” when it contains one or more of the following: hail one inch or greater, winds gusting in excess of 50 knots (57.5 mph), or a tornado.

Source: Catatumbo lightning: a torrent of current