Lightning crackles over Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela in this long-exposure shot from 2014. Jorge Silva/Reuters

Nocturnal thunderstorms occur almost 300 days of the year on Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo.

Astraphobes who dive under their beds at the first rumblings of a storm should stay away from Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, as it’s just been verified as the most lightning-cursed place on the planet.

Researchers from Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo, NASA, and elsewhere poured through 16 years of space observations to give this honorific to what some call South America’s biggest lake (technically, it’s more of a bay or lagoon). Thunderstorms occur an average of 297 nights a year, triggered by a “deep nocturnal convection driven by locally forced convergent flow,” according to a study in this month’s Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Here’s more from the society’s blog:

Imagine being awoken late one night by the near constant glow of lightning overhead—often flickering silently but occasionally rumbling deeply with a strike nearby. Then it happens the same time the next night—and the next, and the next, sometimes lasting for many hours at a time.

Now imagine the nocturnal fireworks happening nearly 300 days per year....

Storms mostly form during the nighttime hours, after the tropical heating of the day allows warm Caribbean air to mix with colder Andes Mountain air. According to the [study], “Nocturnal thunderstorms over Lake Maracaibo are so frequent that their lightning activity was used as a lighthouse by Caribbean navigators in colonial times.”

Last year, Guinness World Records announced Lake Maracaibo had the world’s highest concentration of lightning; this new study gives peer-reviewed weight to the claim. The previous champion of lightning flashes, the town of Kifuka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now comes in at second place with about 158 bolts zapping each square kilometer a year.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  2. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.
    Coronavirus

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: an empty street in NYC
    Coronavirus

    What a Coronavirus Recovery Could Look Like

    Urban resilience expert Michael Berkowitz shares ideas about how U.S. cities can come back stronger from the social and economic disruption of coronavirus.

  5. Life

    Alone Together, in Community Resilience

    Portable pantries. Saucepan protests. Small-space dance routines. The best coronavirus community efforts use social distancing as an asset, not an obstacle.

×