Where is there more lightning and lightning on Earth?

Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is the place with the most lightning strikes on Earth.

Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / NASA

Lightning bolts and thunderbolts they have always been a source of curiosity and wonder.

Even if dozens of bolts and lightning bolts crackle at any moment somewhere on Earth, These brief electrical shocks, typically lasting less than 30 microseconds, remain unusually difficult to study.

However, the satellites of POT have helped a lot to deepen our understanding of lightning and lightning that occurs on Earth in the last decades.

Sensors placed in space, such as the Ray Image Sensor (LIS) on the International Space Station (ISS LIS have provided high-quality observations of lightning since the 1990s, allowing atmospheric scientists to quantify and map the global lightning distribution.

Lightning map on Earth
The map of lightning on Earth between 1995 and 2020. Courtesy Lauren Dauphin / Earth Observatory / NASA

The map above is based on lightning observations made with multiple sensors. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Alabama-Huntsville published an updated map in March 2021. Researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center published a similar map of lightning activity, based on three years of ISS observations. LIS, in July 2020.

The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) is a space-based lightning sensor aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS LIS instrument records the time of occurrence of a lightning strike, measures radiant energy and estimates the location during the day and night with high detection efficiency.

Previous lightning activity maps assigned lightning to a single coordinate on a map. By reprocessing all OTD and LIS data, the scientists were able to include the horizontal dimensions of the rays.

The incredible horizontal dimensions of some rays

"Our analysis explains the fact that lightning can travel horizontally, not just vertically from the clouds to the ground," explained Michael Petersonfrom the Los Álamos National Laboratory. "One way to think about this new climatology is that it tells us how often an observer can expect lightning to be visible overhead, regardless of where the flash started or ended."

"Some lightning bolts, we call them mega-flares, actually travel incredibly long horizontal distances, sometimes hundreds of kilometers," Peterson added.

The longest ray evers recorded spanned 709 kilometers (440 miles) as it crackled through the skies of Argentina and Brazil for 11 seconds in 2018.

The lightning capitals of the world

With an average flash rate of 389 rays per day, Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela (shown above) has the highest flash spread density in the world. The unique geography of that region fuels weather patterns that make it a magnet for thunderstorms and lightning.

The area along Lake Kivu, on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, It ranks second with an average of 368 flashes per day.

Some scientists anticipate that the patterns will change as the world warms and weather fronts and storm tracks adjust. By contributing to the production of nitrogen dioxide, a greenhouse gas, lightning also contributes directly to global warming.

"There is an added urgency to look at the effect of climate change on lightning because the World Meteorological Agency recently added lightning to its list of essential climate variables," said Tim Lang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA Marshall.

With information from NASA's Earth Observatory

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