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]

One thought on “The Everlasting Lightning of Venezuela”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *