In the north of Venezuela, there is a place where you never stop seeing flashes and lightning at night.
There are fascinating phenomena all over the world, some of which have a direct impact on the inhabitants of the place where they occur, while others make it possible to study and better understand the effects of climate change and the behaviour of the Earth. An example of these phenomena is in the town of Ologá, on the lake of Maracaibo (Zulia state, western Venezuela), a place where it is impossible to observe the night in its normal darkness.
Specifically, between April and November, lightning comes and goes constantly in the sky, a phenomenon that has become customary for residents and a “miracle” in the eyes of visitors. An average of 297 thunderstorms occurs each year, from which this spectacle of natural lightning is released, firing almost 2 million lightning strikes.
Maracaibo was declared by NASA as the “capital” of lightning on Earth. Although this phenomenon is widely known in Venezuela as the “Lightning of the Catatumbo“, experts considered until now that the greatest concentration of this phenomenon originated in the Congo River basin in Africa. According to Blakeslee, 16 years of data had to be collected to reach these conclusions.
Scientists analyzed thousands of data captured by a lightning sensor called the NASA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, which produced about 17 years of information on tropical rains. It was towards the end of the mission that they observed the tenth part of the resolution that resulted in the re-identification of the lightning flash hotspots.
Although the NASA scientist now has the most detailed information about what’s happening south of Lake Maracaibo, he has never visited the site in person. Tour guide Alan Highton, on the other hand, set up a camp on the lake water in the town of Ologá decades ago where he welcomes tourists who want to experience “the experience of lightning”.
In addition to giving Venezuela a record, the scientific study could provide important information on climate change on the planet, Blakeslee said. The tour guide Alan Highton has been making tourist trips to Lake Maracaibo for decades for those who wish to observe the natural phenomenon.
It has been hypothesized that lightning and thunderstorms can be a sensitive indicator of temperature change, so understanding the relationship of lightning and lightning to severe weather and atmospheric chemistry is key to creating public policy on the environment, he adds.
It should be noted that the area where the Lighting of the Catatumbo lightning phenomenon occurs is a wild set of conditions that have not been greatly altered by humanity, in contrast to the Amazon rainforest in the Orinoco River basin, where illegal mining and crime have brought a massive occupation of land to build.
These sites, which once housed thousands of exotic plants and animals, are now occupied by unlicensed paramilitaries and miners, exploiting resources indiscriminately and without basic environmental policies, causing major natural imbalances in the region and increasing the possibility of disastrous soil erosion.