Venezuela's Most Persistent Lightning Storm Keeps Going And Going And . . .

By Meera Dolasia on February 10, 2014

CCSS NAS-4 Grades: 5-8 Word Search

The most exciting storms are ones accompanied by flashes of lightning. Unfortunately those are rare, unless you are in the vicinity of the Catatumbo River in Northwestern Venezuela, home to the spectacular everlasting 'rib a-ba’, or ‘river of fire' lighting storms.

Here, nature's grandest sound and light show called Relámpago del Catatumbo (the Catumbo lightning) is staged about 160 nights a year for up to 10 hours at a time. And unlike other measly lightning storms that generate maybe one or two flashes, this one sizzles with as many as 280 an hour, or a whopping 1.2 million lightning strikes a year - the highest in the world. Not only that, each one of them discharges with an intensity of between 100,000 to 400,000 amps or enough to power every light bulb in South America. Not surprisingly, they are visible for almost 250 miles, which is why fisherman and sailors often use the Beacon of Maracaibo to guide them across the waters, during dark nights.

What's even more amazing is that the lightning has been occurring above the same spot in the marshland where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, one of only 17 ancient lakes in the world, for thousands of years.

The best part is that the show is different every night. That's because the color of the lightning varies, depending on the amount moisture in the atmosphere. On dry nights, the lightning appears white because there no droplets of water to act as prisms. Conversely, when the air is laden with moisture, it helps split up the bright light into spectacular red, orange and even purple colors.

Funnily enough, though this phenomenon has been going on for centuries, scientists have still not been able to figure out the reason. Some speculate that the storms are a result of the interaction of the area's unusual topography, wind and heat. Lake Maracaibo is sheltered by the high Andes mountains on three sides. This causes powerful low level warm winds from the Caribbean Sea, to rush in from the one open area. When this hot moist air meets the cold air from the Andes, it condenses, resulting in thunderstorms.

Others however believe that the storms are caused from the methane released by the marshes in the area. The locals simply maintain that this natural phenomenon is the 'spirit of Catatumbo' that lights up the night sky.

Another mystery that boggles the scientific community and locals alike, is why the thunderstorms sometimes disappear for long periods of time. In 2010, the skies over the area did not light up for almost six weeks, the longest disappearance in 104 years. Again there are many theories - Some attribute it to a shift from El Nino to La Nina (cooler than normal water temperatures) in the Pacific Ocean. Others believe that it was caused by climate change. The good news is that the storms came back and have not left for that long a period, since! Now if only someone could figure out how to harness all the free energy that is being released each night!

Resources: odditycentral.com, dailymail.co.uk,icag.com

Listen to the Article:
Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
455 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • wazzzzzzuuuuuup
    Looks intense.
    • Smithd5529/1/2014
      Thanksamundo for the post.Really thank you! Awesome.
      • Smithk4787/29/2014
        Yeah bookmaking this wasn't a risky conclusion outstanding post!
        • Manoranjan Rao7/7/2014
          I am surprised that this unusual phenomenon is not known widely. I would also like to know if any damage is caused by this. You cannot harness this energy. The power may look very high but the energy is not. Scientists should also study if there are any 'natural benefits' flowing from this. Like formation of nitrate fertilizers. Etc.
          • Guest7/5/2014
            I definitely wanna visit this place! So cool!
            • gurgle
              gurgle6/24/2014
              Awesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
              • Purple46/20/2014
                I have a friend that lives in Venezuela.I hope she was not in that storm.
                • colin6/2/2014
                  lightning is soooooooooooo coooooool
                  • no one5/31/2014
                    this is soo cool using this for my report
                    • anonymous5/29/2014
                      This is really awesome! I'd totally want to watch that one night!

                      Vocabulary

                      bogglesel ninointensitymeaslyprismstopographyvicinitywhopping

                      Geography

                      Carribean SeaVenezuela, South America

                      Most Popular Articles

                      Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                      Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                      9/11/2001 - The Day Americans Came Together
                      Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Lava Inches Toward Homes
                      Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                      Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                      Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                      Video Of The Week - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .

                      Latest Comments

                      georgiagirl23

                      I love grey wolves who would do ...
                      How The Removal Of A 'Nuisance' ...

                      Candy01 wrote:

                      My class and language art teache...
                      Rare Superman Comic Book Auction...

                      Anonymous wrote:

                      That looks cool
                      Italian Adventurer Alex Bellini ...

                      awesomeness wrote:

                      this artical is very interesting...
                      Always Craving Chips And Cookies...

                      ALA