Venezuela's "continuous" lightning storm

The folks in the video above aren't watching a fireworks show but rather the near-constant lightning strikes that occur over Vaenezuela's Catatumbo River almost half of the year. Apparently, sailors have dubbed the lightning "Maracaibo Beacon" because it can be used as a navigational aid. According to the excellent Atlas Obscura, there might be as many as 280 strikes per hour during 10 hour stretches. From Atlas Obscura (photo below from Wikipedia):
 Files Place Images Relampago-Del-Catatumbo (The phenomenon) was first written about in the 1597 poem "The Dragontea" by Lope de Vega. De Vega tells of Sir Francis Drake's 1595 attempt to take the city of Maracaibo by night, only to have his plans foiled when the lightning storm's flashes gave away his position to the city's defenders.

It's still unknown exactly why this area--and this area alone--should produce such regular lighting. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs is meeting with storm clouds coming down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lighting storm.
Relampago del Catatumbo


  1. As a twenty year veteran of Florida, I can attest that the above footage doesn’t seem strange to me in the least.

    Maybe the duration of such lightning events is much greater in Catatumbo (we get a couple hours of lightning like above, as compared to ten hours), but aside from that this looks like a clip from any typical summer thunder storm in Florida. We tend to get one like clockwork every afternoon or evening, so long as the proper weather patterns are around.

    Still, an interesting phenomenon, especially if it lasts as long as they say and if it is actually something you can navigate by (although I would not want to be on a boat in that kind of a storm).

    ~D. Walker

  2. Saw something a lot like this while stationed at Fort Clayton in Panama – on night patrols we’d stare up into the sky with our NVG’s and watch the light show. It was pretty fantastic.

  3. I saw a storm like this – once – and was totally blown away. I think the mediocrity of seeing them daily would ruin the memory for me. Sort of like how being surrounded by sexually compulsive vixens my entire life has, made… uh…

    That was just a dream, wasn’t it?

  4. Anonymous#2: Is it always in the same spot in Florida? I think that’s what is unique here, allegedly.

    Seems though, that someone needs to put a lightning-powered power plant. Or work on perfecting one. Or wherever we are with that tech.

  5. Reminds me of this, http://www

    and I agree with #2, having lived a short while in Australia some of the lightning shows there unbelievable, far more intense than anything I’ve seen before. I love a good summer storm or two to watch from a balcony, but I guess anybody would get bored, maybe even annoyed, after 10 hours a day.

  6. We have some serious lightning here in Florida. People from other states start freaking out and driving slow during what we call sprinkles or light showers. They rave about the “huge rainstorm” for what we consider a slight afternoon shower. It’s just a whole other thing to experience rain and lightning here in Florida and there are many times when you can see the lightning continuously striking here…much like what you see in this video. Hey – we do have swamps here – perhaps that swamp gas or methane has something to do with it. I’ve been through stretches of rain that last two weeks STRAIGHT…you’ll get quite tired of the rain after something like that. Just the other day we had lightning that sounded like a giant taking footsteps outside and approaching steadily – one boom after another.

  7. We had a storm like that roll through downtown Chicago in 2008. It brought a Tornado with it as well that touched down on the lakefront. The lightning was continuous and from what I remember it was the record holder for recorded continuous lightning strikes in the Midwest.

    I made a video of it with a dinky Canon Digital Camera, although it doesn’t have quite the dramatic arcs that the video above contains, it does demonstrate how purely awesome a storm like this is to witness.

    I used Boards of Canada as a backdrop and it went quite well considering that the lightning strikes are so frequent it mimics the beats quite well.

    The only regret I have is not having a better camera. Next time!

  8. What people are not realizing here in the comments is that the weird thing about it his that is a particular place.

    Its not the whole of the Maracaibo State, is just that small part, where the river gets into the lake, that has a electric storm going more or less half the year since everybody has memory of it, some 400 year or so.

    Its like having a natural tesla coil around the corner :-P

  9. This is probably a stupid question, but with all the lightning there, do people living in that area have a higher chance of being hit by lightning than those of us with more moderate storms?

  10. I’ve seen this before. A fat, twisting May supercell in the right conditions over Tornado Alley has the same frequency of strikes.

  11. The persistence of location is probably a function of a low-level jet of warm, moist air being pushed into a mountain range. lifting the moist air into cooler, dryer air. This initiates convection, resulting in persistent thunderstorms by way of orographic lift.

Comments are closed.