Venezuelan Lightning Storm Lasts 180 Days A Year, 10 Hours A Night In The Same Place

Witness the Catatumbo everlasting lightning storm. This is, apparently, the single biggest generator of tropospheric ozone in the world.

This phenomenon occurs in Venezuela and lasts 180 Days A Year, 10 Hours a night, in the same place.

This is ‘Relámpago del Catatumbo’ in a corner of north western Venezuela – otherwise known as ‘the everlasting storm’. The unique atmospheric phenomenon generates an estimated 1.2m lightning strikes a year and is visible from almost 250 miles away.

Storm clouds gather in the same spot five-miles above Lake Maracaibo up to 160 nights per year, lasting for about 10 hours at a time.

There are several theories to explain the continuous storms including high winds which sweep across the lake forming clouds when they meet the Andean mountains. Others link it to the boggy marshes releasing methane gas.

Either way it has become a proud symbol for the people of Venezuela and is referenced in the epic poem ‘La Dragontea’ by Lope de Vega. It is also credited with scuppering a raid by Francis Drake on the city of Maracaibo in 1595 when lightning betrayed his ships to the Spanish garrison.

The state of Zulia, which encompasses Lake Maracaibo, has a lightning bolt across its centre and refers to the phenomenon in its anthem.

Known as the “Beacon of Maracaibo,” the Catatumbo lightning has guided sailors for centuries. It can sometimes be seen on the horizon from as far away as the Lesser Antilles, more than 200 miles distant. In his 1597 poem “The Dragontea,” which tells the story of Sir Francis Drake’s last expedition, Spanish poet Lope de Vega tells how the lightning—”flames, which the wings of night cover”—illuminated the silhouettes of the English privateer’s ships, tipping off the garrison at Maracaibo to his surprise attack. During the last major naval skirmish of the Venezuelan war of independence in 1823, the lightning was said to have helped steer the ships of Adm. José Prudencio Padilla to victory over the Spanish fleet. The storm is so central to the region’s identity that the state of Zulia put a large lightning bolt in the middle of its flag

The storm also acts as a natural lighthouse for local fisherman who are able to navigate at night without any problem.

On occasions the phenomenon has stopped for weeks at a time, most recently in 2010. Locals worried it was the result of an extreme drought, which had led to electricity shortages in a country which relies heavily on hydropower.
But after five weeks of silence the cacophony resumed.
The other occasion was in 1906 after a huge earthquake off the coast of Columbia and Ecuador caused a tsunami.