Venezuela's Everlasting Lightning Storm

Bess Lovejoy

They say lightning never strikes twice, but in one corner of northwestern Venezuela it’s been flashing millions of times a year, for hundreds—if not thousands—of years. Locals call it "Relampago del Catatumbo," or the lightning of Catatumbo, named for the river where the phenomenon occurs. The unique atmospheric conditions at the point where the river’s waters empty into Lake Maracaibo (including warm air from the Caribbean meeting cold air from the Andes) have produced one of the world’s greatest lightning hotspots, with ten-hour lightning storms splitting the skies about 150 times a year. The Guinness Book of World Records says the area has the most lighting strikes per square meter of anywhere in the world.

And while this sounds like an awfully dramatic weather event, locals are fond of their lightning. Historically, it's saved the area from attack (by illuminating ships) and helped mariners navigate.

Atlas Obscura has more on the Relampago del Catatumbo in a new installment of the 100 Wonders video series, which is devoted to exploring some of the world's most amazing sites. Previous videos have explored Antarctica's alarming-looking Blood Falls (more on the science of that here), the philosopher Jeremy Bentham's preserved head, Japan's Snake Island, and a toxic Blue Lagoon in England.