In South America, north of the equator, sits Lake Maracaibo – the lightning capital of the world. Situated just 10 degrees from the equator in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, Lake Maracaibo experiences lightning storms almost 300 nights each year.
In fact, the storms produce skies so bright, navigators once used them as a lighthouse. Here, the locals refer to the lightning as “the never-ending storm of Catatumbo”. They have even put a lightning bolt on the official state flag.
Meteorologists attribute this strange phenomenon to the winds that blow across Lake Maracaibo and surrounding swampy plains. These air masses meet the high mountain ridges of the surrounding Andes, creating optimum levels of heat and humidity needed to bring on a thunderstorm.
Legend has it the lightning has also been helpful in thwarting historical invasions. In his 1598 poem, La Dragontea, Spanish poet Lope de Vega wrote how the lightning exposed a sneak attack on the city of Maracaibo in 1595. Another story from 1823 told how the lightning apparently helped the Colombians defeat the Spanish during the Venezuelan War of Independence.