Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela has long been known for its high numbers of lightning strikes. In fact, the location is even entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet's No. 1 lightning hot spot. Now new research has pinpointed the exact location on Lake Maracaibo where lightning strikes the most, establishing this single spot as the most lightning-struck site on Earth.
The research, which was performed by a team led by Rachel Albrecht of the University of Sao Paulo, was presented at the recent American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.
Making use of satellite data recorded by the Light Imaging Sensor aboard NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, the team was able to narrow down the exact place where lightning was touching down with greater precision than ever before. The point that gets the most lightning lies right where Lake Maracaibo meets the Catatumbo River.
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A lightning display can be witnessed an astounding 297 days out of 365 days a year on average over the lake as a whole. In fact, lightning is so common here that in the 1800s, ships were known to use the regular flashes as a natural lighthouse to guide themselves safely through the lake.
Needless to say, the old trope that lightning never strikes twice has never been more utterly refuted.
Other places where lightning is likely to strike repeatedly include the mountain village of Kifuka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as a region in Pakistan near the Hindu Kush mountains. North America is mostly safe from lightning strikes, relatively speaking, with only 53 of the top 500 places most likely to get lightning-struck. Most of those locations were found in the Sierra Madre mountains and along the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico.
The main characteristic that is shared among spots that receive the most lightning is complex terrain, such as mountains. Places where warmer, humid breezes interact with colder mountain air are ideal for generating lightning storms.