Catatumbo Lightning, Strikes Hundreds of Times in Venezuela: Fact Check


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Image about Catatumbo Lightning, Strikes Hundreds of Times in Venezuela
Catatumbo Lightning, Strikes Hundreds of Times in Venezuela

Story:

There is a location in Venezuela known where lightning strikes up to 280 times an hour, 160 nights a year in an atmospheric phenomenon known as Catatumbo lightning.

Other Versions

There is a persistent storm in Venezuela that produces lightning 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour…and it’s been going since at least the 16th century.

Fact Check:

A picture message in circulation claims to show a persistent storm in Venezuela produces lightning 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. They say the rare atmospheric phenomenon known as Catatumbo lightning is going on since at least 16th century. The claims are facts with some misinformation explained here.

Catatumbo Lightning Strikes Hundreds of Times in Venezuela

You must have heard the saying “lightning never strikes the same place twice”. It does not hold true to the location in Venezuela. Lightning originates from a mass of storm clouds at a height of more than 1 kilometer, occurring during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. The atmospheric phenomenon occurs over the mouth of Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The phenomenon is visible for miles around the lake and has been known for centuries as the “Lighthouse of Maracaibo“. Lake Maracaibo also earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for “highest concentration of lightning” with 250 lightning flashes per square kilometer each year. Locals call it the “river of fire,” as many a times the strobe of light brightens night into day.

On the other hand, the frequency of lightning changes throughout the year, and is different from year to year. For instance, it ceased from January to April 2010 apparently due to drought. For decades, experts sought reasons for the area’s uniquely intense storms. Scientists suggested the conductivity of the air above the lake Maracaibo gets a boost from the abundance of Methane from oil fields below. Lake Maracaibo is in fact one of the oldest lakes on Earth with rich geological history. It has deposited the world’s largest fossil fuel reserves, dwarfing those of Saudi Arabia. In 16th century, Spaniards used tar from its large oil seepages to caulk (waterproof fill and seal) their ships.

Facts about the Photograph

Coming to the photograph in question, it does not show the Catatumbo lightning phenomenon in Venezuela. It comes from Photographer Chris Kotsiopoulos when he left to document the total lunar eclipse over Ikaria Island, Greece on 15th June 2011. The amazing photograph in fact shows a sequence from intense lightning storm at the place. Chris Kotsiopoulos took a 70-shot sequence, with a 20-second exposure for each shot. He stitched those shots together into the photograph showing around 100 lightning strikes.

Hoax or Fact:

Fact with Some Misinformation.


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Prashanth Damarla
Debunker

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