The Everlasting Lightning of Venezuela

By Anupum Pant

There’s a place in Venezuela which is the single greatest generator of tropospheric ozone – A basin in Venezuela where the  Catatumbo River empties into Lake Maracaibo. The basin is surrounded on three sides by mountains and is home to a very unique phenomenon which produces more tropospheric ozone than anywhere else in the world. It’s called the Catatumbo everlasting lightning.

Almost every other day (more than 200 days a year), after dusk the largest lightning show on earth begins. The whole sky strobes blue light about 260 times every hour. This lasts for about ten hours. In that span lightning strikes about 20,000 times! Nowhere on earth is lightning as persistent as this place…

This happens because of the geography of the region. Since the basin is surrounded by mountains on three sides, it’s a perfect place for the equatorial warm and moist winds to crash. As they crash the moist air condenses water and forms clouds. These charged clouds create a lot of cloud to cloud lightning about 3 kilometers above in the sky.

This is better known among sailors as the Beacon of Maracaibo, as it serves a nice navigational aid for them.

Mysteriously, this lightning phenomenon which had lasted continually for 104 years disappeared in January 2010. Many thought it had gone for ever, but it started again in the month of April the same year. This was the longest disappearance ever. Scientists say it was the drought which made it stop for 4 months.

via [Slate]

The Red Rain of Kerala

By Anupum Pant

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In the year 2001, between 25th July and 25th September, people from the Indian state of Kerela (Kottayam and Idukki districts) experienced a bizarre oddity – The Red Rain of Kerala. Sporadic heavy downpours of mysteriously colored water left the people of Kerala dazed. More recently, red rains were also seen in parts of Sri Lanka between 15th November and 27th December, 2012.

Yellow, Black and Green rains have also been reported several times since 1896.

Red Rain of Kerala – Studies

A study conducted in India showed that the rain was colored because these raindrops contained millions of spherical and oval red particles which had an internal structure. These things looked like biological cells. Initially, when scientists weren’t able to confirm the existence of DNA (a fact which has baffled scientists) in them, in spite of an internal structure present in the cells, some started claiming that the origin of these red particles was extraterrestrial, possibly, coming from an exploded meteor.

Later the mystery was solved, the presence of DNA was confirmed and a study, destroying popular media claims, concluded that the red rain of Kerala had been colored due to airborne spores originating from a type of algae. There was nothing alien about it.

The unusual color of the rain was due to the presence of a unicellular micro-organism belonging to Kingdom Protista, of the Phylum Euglenozoa, known as Trachelomonas. Trachelomonas was the main cause of reddish downpours in other regions of the world as well.

[Source: The Red Rain of Kerala]