Catatumbo, the everlasting storm

04 junio 2007


The mysterious “Relámpago del Catatumbo” (Catatumbo lightning) is a unique natural phenomenon in the world. Located on the mouth of the Catatumbo river at Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela), the phenomenon is a cloud-to-cloud lightning that forms a voltage arc more than five kilometre high during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours a night, and as many as 280 times an hour.


This almost permanent storm occurs over the marshlands where the Catatumbo River feeds into Lake Maracaibo and it is considered the greatest single generator of ozone in the planet, judging from the intensity of the cloud-to-cloud discharge and great frequency. The area sees an estimated 1,176,000 electrical discharges per year, with an intensity of up to 400,000 amperes, and visible up to 400 km away. This is the reason why the storm is also known as the Maracaibo Beacon as light has been used for navigation by ships for ages.


In 1595 sir Francis Drake tried to attack the city of Maracaibo but the local defence caught sight of his ships thanks to the light from the storm. It is also said that Catatumbo lightening gave Almirante Padilla victory over the Spanish float during the independence war, on july 24 1823.


The collision with the winds coming from the Andes Mountains causes the storms and associated lightning, a result of electrical discharges through ionised gases, specifically the methane created by the decomposition of organic matter in the marshes. Being lighter than air, the gas rises up to the clouds, feeding the storms.


Some local environmentalists hope to put the area under the protection of UNESCO, as it is an exceptional phenomenon, the greatest source of its type for regenerating the planet's ozone layer.


Thank you Joan!


More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

7 Respuestas (Deja un comentario)

  1. Adam dijo...
  2. Amazing!
    Your blog is excellent! Thankyou for making it available in English!

  3. aberron dijo...
  4. Thank you, friend :)

  5. Avi Abrams dijo...
  6. Amazing... thank you for uncovering this.

  7. alan dijo...
  8. Gracias por publicar mis photos del relampago del Catatumbo.Favor incluir el Copyright al primer y tercer photo a nombre de Alan Highton.Gracias

  9. Anónimo dijo...
  10. No os conocía os acabo de incluir en mis favoritos.
    Fabiola

  11. Chris dijo...
  12. FYI: Ozone from the lightning storms cannot help regenerate the ozone layer. The ozone layer is in the stratosphere, where sunlight continuously generates ozone. The reason there is a hole is that the ozone is destroyed more quickly than it is made.

  13. aberron dijo...
  14. Thank you, Chris. I corrected that point in the Spanish version but forgot to do the same here. Fixed!