Welcome to the most electrical place on earth


We’ve recently made a momentous discovery: Thor is real and he is Venezuelan. What else would explain the 100,000 lightning strikes in South America right now?

Found in the north west of Venezuela where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, the natural light show known as the Beacon of Maracaibo (or depending who you ask, ‘the everlasting storm’) takes place on average 260 days of the year.

The intense electrical phenomenon has been enough to dethrone the Congolose town of Kifuka as the most electrical place on Earth, taking out the title of the “highest concentration of lightning per square kilometre anywhere on the planet” in the 2015 Guinness World Record Books. Which is kind of a double-edged honour. There’s enough energy here to power all the light bulbs in South America combined.

Image c/o NASA Marshall Space Flight, Flickr

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Image c/o Fernando Flores, Flickr

But seriously, why does this relatively harmless little lake seem to be the gateway to Asgard? Despite advances in measuring electrical activity, scientists are still baffled by what exactly is causing the storms.

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One theory (from the 60s) goes that uranium deposits in the bedrock naturally act as a conduit for lightning strikes. Others suggest the levels of methane produced from nearby oil fields increase the conductivity of the air above the lake. Another solution could lie in the natural terrain around Maracaibo, which sits surrounded by three Andean mountains filled with jaguars, boa constrictors and howler monkeys. Warm winds from the Caribbean Sea collide with cool mountain air to create dense clouds pregnant with electrical energy. (The jaguars and howler monkeys aren’t particularly scientifically relevant, but it’s nice to know all the same).

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Image c/o Fernando Flores, Flickr

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Image c/o Fernando Flores, Flickr

These storms occur throughout the year, becoming less frequent during the dry months of January and February. The wet season in October is meant to be the best time to see them in all their crackling glory.

The everlasting storm is not a recent occurrence, with a scan of the history books revealing that the benevolent lightning strikes have been a friend of the Venezuelan people for centuries – assisting colonial sailors with navigation and twice defeating naval invasions of the country. More recently the storms have delivered a financial boon for the local people – drawing crowds of storm-chasing travellers willing to pay for a ride closer to the lake.

While the exact cause is still being investigated, we’re more than happy to sit back and watch the sky light up like a giant plasma globe.

Feature image c/o Fernando Flores, Flickr 

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Welcome to the most electrical place on earth was last modified: November 8th, 2016 by Justin Meneguzzi

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