See that dark purple spot of heavy activity in North America? That's more or less centered over where I grew up. God, I miss thunderstorms.
And, speaking of deities, what is up with this, anyway? How did Kansas and Missouri anger Thor so very badly?
In reality, this picture is somewhat distorted. It only shows lighting strikes for the last six months. Look at NASA's documentation of all lightning strikes since 1998, and it becomes clear that the American Midwest, while an active spot, isn't quite the epicenter of the Lord's Righteous Wrath that it first appears. Instead, it's just one of several global hot spots. The place with the most lightning is actually in central Africa, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "near the small village of Kifuka." NASA's Hugh Christian, project leader for the National Space Science and Technology Center's lightning team, explains:
And where does lightning strike most frequently? Central Africa. "There you get thunderstorms all year 'round," Christian says. "[It's a result of] weather patterns, air flow from the Atlantic Ocean, and enhancement by mountainous areas."
Image originally from the WeatherMatrix blog, via my friend Joe Jarvis. Although, it's worth noting that the WeatherMatrix blog makes some claims about lightning behavior—like, "it doesn't happen in the mountains"—that seem to be contradicted by the village of Kifuka's location .... in the mountains. Make of that what you will.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.