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Catatumbo Lightning

  • Context (TH): Near-constant lightning strikes over Venezuela’s Catatumbo River.
  • Catatumbo lightning is a natural phenomenon that occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where lightning strikes almost continuously. It is named after the Catatumbo River.
  • This phenomenon primarily happens at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, where it meets Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in Venezuela.

Catatumbo lightning - PMF IAS

The science behind the lightning

  • Warm, moist air from the Caribbean Sea is pushed towards the Andes mountains, where it collides with cooler air descending from the peaks.
  • This collision creates a storm of sorts, as the warmer air is forced to rise rapidly by the shape of the local landscape. And as it does, it cools and condenses, forming towering cumulonimbus clouds.
  • Meanwhile, the combination of strong winds and temperature differentials generates electrical charges within these clouds.
  • When the electrical potential within the clouds becomes too great, it discharges in the form of lightning.
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