Lightning Capital of the World: Meet Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela

Lake Maracaibo is known as the lighthouse of Venezuela because it has the most lightning in the world.

If you love thunderstorms, then the most extreme lightning location on earth is Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. There is so much lightning that it is known as the lightning capital of the world. So many lightnings illuminate Lake Maracaibo that sailors used it to guide their ships and earned it the nickname “Maracaibo Lighthouse”.

Venezuela is a very beautiful country and rich in many things. One can enjoy its tropical beaches, lush rainforests and intense lightning. Venezuela has more than the craziest lightning hotspot in the world, it also has Angel Falls – the tallest waterfalls in the world.

Lake Maracaibo and its unique geography

Lake Maracaibo is a large brackish tidal bay (aka a tidal estuary) and is variously referred to as a lake, bay, or lagoon. In the past, it was once a real lake and the largest in South America, as well as one of the oldest lakes on Earth – 20 to 36 million years old.

The biggest: It is the largest lake in South America

Older : Lake Maracaibo is one of the oldest lakes on the planet

The lake is famous for its weather phenomenon called Catatumbo Lightning which causes Lake Maracaibo to produce more lightning than anywhere else on earth. If you are a lightning enthusiast, consider adding it to a future itinerary.

The lightning is thought to be the result of winds blowing over the lake and the surrounding marshy plains. The air masses encounter the high mountain ranges of the Andes, the Perijá Mountains and the Cordillera de Mérida. These ranges enclose the plain below on three sides.

Mountain ranges: Towering mountain ranges enclose the lake on three sides trapping the air

Heat and moisture are collected across the low plains and create electrical charges with the end result of numerous thunderstorms. There is almost continuous lightning (mainly in the clouds).

The area around the lake is also particularly rich in oil and large quantities have been extracted from this area.

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The “Maracaibo Lighthouse”

Since the earliest explorers, Lake Maracaibo has been known as the “Lighthouse of Maracaibo” and its lightning flashes can be seen for miles around. It may come as a surprise, but the first settlers in Venezuela were not the Spaniards but rather the Germans.

Guinness World Record: Lake Maracaibo holds the record for the highest concentration of lightning

It was the Germans who named the settlement “Klein-Venedig” or “Little Venice” – which the Spaniards later changed to Venezuela. German activity here lasted from 1528 to 1546, and Venezuela was the most important part of German colonization of the Americas (there were others). But eventually the Spaniards took over.

the Italian geographer Agustin Codazzi said of the phenomenon in 1841 was:

like a continuous flash of lightning, and its position such that, situated almost at the meridian of the mouth of the lake, it directs navigators like a beacon.”

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Earth and its lightning demonstrations

According to a studyAfrica has the most lightning hotspots in the world, followed by Asia, South America, North America and Australia (not much happening in Europe) .

On average, the Earth produces about 44 lightning strikes per second per year. It produces the most (about 55 flashes per second) in the boreal summer and the least (about 35 flashes per second) in the austral summer.

On average, Lake Maracaibo has some 233 lightning strikes per square kilometer each year, with thousands occurring per night. Often there is no thunder – just lightning. And lightning happens around 300 nights a year, with September being the peak month.

Average flashes: 233 flashes per square kilometer each year

Average days: On average there is lightning 297 days a year

Peak month: September

To visit : Due to severe economic problems in Venezuela, current travel advice should be checked before visiting

Unfortunately, for the past decade, Venezuela has been on the list of countries they would never visit. But I hope that in the future things will change and the country can be visited again safely. It is a very rewarding country to explore.

Here are the best lightning spots in the world in terms of flash density – unfortunately the next two highest are also in hard-to-visit locations.

  • Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela: 232.52
  • Kabare, Dem. Rep. from Congo: 205.31
  • Kampene, Dem. Rep. from Congo: 176.71
  • Caceres, Colombia: 172.29
  • Sake, Dem. Rep. from Congo: 143.21
  • Dagar, Pakistan: 143.11
  • El Tarra, Colombia: 138.61
  • Nguti, Cameroon: 129.58
  • Butembo, Dem. Rep. from Congo: 129.50
  • Boende, Dem. Rep. from Congo: 127.52

So for the highest lighting density in the world, go to Venezuela. But if one is in Africa (and especially DR Congo with five of the top 10 lightning hotspots in the world), one can find plenty of lightning hotspots lighting up the sky.

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