CATATUMBO LIGHTNING (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     6th May 2024        

Context: "Scientists unravel the mystery behind Catatumbo lightning, attributing its occurrence to a convergence of unique environmental factors."

Catatumbo Lightning

  • About: It is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon that occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where lightning strikes almost continuously.
  • Location: This phenomenon primarily happens at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, where it meets Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in Venezuela.
  • Factors: A convergence of several factors gives rise to the unique conditions required for Catatumbo lightning.
  • Weather Conditions: Warm, moist air from the Caribbean Sea collides with cooler air descending from the Andes mountains, creating a perfect storm.
  • Formation of Cumulonimbus Clouds: This collision forces the warmer air to rise rapidly, cooling and condensing to form towering cumulonimbus clouds.
  • Generation of Electrical Charges: Strong winds and temperature differentials generate electrical charges within these clouds, leading to a buildup of static electricity.
  • Lightning Discharge: When the electrical potential within the clouds becomes too great, it discharges in the form of lightning.
  • Frequency and Duration: Catatumbo lightning is distinguished by its frequency and duration, occurring for up to 160 nights in a year, with an average of 28 lightning strikes per minute at its peak.