Global Geological And Climatic Events

Catatumbo Lightning: A Torrent of Current


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Catatumbo Lightning

Mains level: NA

Why in the news?

Catatumbo lightning is a natural event seen over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where lightning strikes almost nonstop.

What is Catatumbo Lightning?

  • Catatumbo Lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon that occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela.
  • It specifically occurs at the Catatumbo Delta, where the river meets Lake Maracaibo.
  • It is known as one of the world’s largest lightning displays.
  • This natural spectacle involves frequent and nearly continuous lightning strikes that illuminate the night sky, creating a mesmerizing light show.
  • Catatumbo Lightning is most prevalent during the wet season, typically from April to November.
  • The consistent and abundant lightning activity has earned the region the moniker the lightning capital of the world.”

Factors behind Catatumbo Lightning

  • Weather Dynamics
  • Warm, moisture-laden air from the Caribbean Sea clashes with cooler air descending from the Andes mountains, creating a dynamic interplay of atmospheric forces.
  • This collision, accentuated by the local landscape, triggers rapid upward movement of warm air, leading to the formation of towering cumulonimbus clouds.
  • Electrical Charge Generation
  • Strong winds and temperature differentials within these clouds generate electrical charges.
  • Cumulonimbus clouds, towering over 5 km high, accumulate vast amounts of static electricity.
  • Lightning Discharge: When the electrical potential within the clouds reaches a critical level, it discharges in the form of lightning strikes.

Characteristics of Catatumbo Lightning

  • Catatumbo lightning occurs on approximately 160 nights annually, exhibiting a remarkable longevity.
  • At its peak, the phenomenon generates an astonishing average of 28 lightning strikes per minute.


[2013] During a thunderstorm, the thunder in the skies is produced by the

1. Meeting of cumulonimbus clouds in the sky

2. Lightning that separates the nimbus clouds

3. Violent upward movement of air and water particles

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 3

(d) None of the above produces the thunder

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