There are many mysterious places around the world, and every single one has its own special history. Here, you'll find a phenomenon known as the Catatumbo Lightning.
A Place Where Lightning Strikes Almost 300 Days a Year. Catatumbo lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon in the country of Venezuela. It occurs over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The Catatumbo lightning is bright enough that it can be seen 400 km (250 miles) away and colonial sailors were said to use it for navigation.
It originates from a mass of storm clouds at a height of more than 1 km, and occurs during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. It occurs over and around Lake Maracaibo, typically over the bog area formed where the Catatumbo River flows into the lake.
In January 2010, something unexpected happened- the Catatumbo lightning disappeared. Not only did it disappear, the lightning storms stopped for the longest amount of time in over a century. For several months, the sky over Maracaibo was silent. Quiroga believes the disappearance could have been a result of a shift from El Nino to La Nina, global weather patterns that are characterized by unusually warm and cold ocean temperatures, respectfully, in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Scientists believe the Catatumbo lightning was disrupted due to El Nino for that there was a severe drought across Venezuela that resulted with riverbeds running dry.
In 2014, Catatumbo lightning was added into the Guinness Book of World Records for highest number of average lightning bolts per square kilometer per year. “[This] will have a big impact…at a global scientific level, which is important for tourism in our country,” said Quiroga. With tourists from around the globe fleeing to watch this phenomenon, the government is said to be investing in building an “eco-tourism route” around the Puerto Concha quay.
The Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt described it in 1826. And Italian geographer Agustin Codazzi described it in 1841 as "like a continuous lightning, and its position such that, located almost on the meridian of the mouth of the lake, it directs the navigators as a lighthouse."
The phenomenon is depicted on the flag and coat of arms of the state of Zulia which also contains Lake Maracaibo, and is mentioned in the state's anthem. The phenomenon has been popularly known for centuries as the Lighthouse of Maracaibo, since it is visible for miles around Lake Maracaibo.
IS CATATUMBO LIGHTNING DANGEROUS
Lightning often hits the lake, which can be deadly for fishermen out in their boats. According to Catatumbo Camp, a lightning tourism company near the lake, nearly three people die every year in the lightning capital of the world
IS CATATUMBO LIGHTNING ETERNAL
Before you go booking your flights to Venezuela, you should know that the Catatumbo Lightning is not only not eternal, but its tenure above the Catatumbo River Delta has not been eternally unbroken. Rather, during the first four months of 2010, lightning activity ceased completely, possibly due to drought that overtook the region.
It's also important to note that even if you're lucky enough to visit when the Catatumbo Lightning is in a period of high activity, the lightning starts at a different time each day and is, not surprisingly, most spectacular at night. You'll need to keep these items in mind when planning your trip to see Venezuela's eternal thunderstorm.
SEE WITH YOUR EYES
If you want to see the Catatumo Lightning with your own eyes, your best option is to go with a guided tour such as this one, which pairs the spectacle of the lightning with others opportunities.
Another important reason to consider taking a tour when you visit Venezuela is security. The country is embroiled in its worst economic crisis in years, which is saying a lot for a country that is perpetually on the brink of fiscal collapse. If you travel alone in Venezuela and you aren't Venezuelan, you are putting your safety at risk!
IMPACT ON AVIATION
Apart from the impact on en-route traffic in the area, certain local airports, including Miguel Urdaneta Fernández Airport can be affected by the storms associated with Catatumbo lightning.
Is this mysterious weather phenomenon will be found on your bucket list?