They say lightning never strikes twice, although whoever "they" are might want to have a rethink. New research presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting suggests that one spot in a Venezuelan lake receives a bolt of lightning on 297 days out of 365 each year.
Lake Maracaibo has long been known for its high levels of electrical activity, and earlier this year entered the Guinness Book of World Records as Earth’s lightning hotspot. However, the new data, presented by Rachel Albrecht of the University of Sao Paulo, pinpoints the exact spot on the lake that attracts the highest number of bolts, Live Science reports.
Using satellite data recorded by the Light Imaging Sensor (LIS) aboard NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, Albrecht was able to determine the location of lightning strikes with greater precision than ever before. Orbiting the Earth at a height of 402 kilometers (250 miles), the satellite’s LIS is capable of recording high resolution images that are accurate to within 0.1 degrees of latitude.
Analyzing data recorded by the LIS between 1998 and 2013, Albrecht and her team were able to locate a point where Lake Maracaibo meets the Catatumbo River as the most lightning-prone spot on the planet.
Reasons for this tempestuous climate can be largely attributed to the topographical composition of the surrounding area. Situated in the Andes yet within close proximity to the Caribbean Sea, the lake is served by both warm ocean breezes and cold mountain air, which clash to produce storms.
As a result, the lake tends to experience an awesome amount of lightning, with up to 28 strikes hitting the water every minute when storms are in full flow.
Similar geographical characteristics elsewhere have been credited with creating many of the world’s other lightning hotspots. Among these is the mountain village of Kifuka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which receives 232 lightning flashes per kilometer (0.62 miles) each year. This puts the town in second place behind Lake Maracaibo, which is struck by 250 flashes per kilometer per year.