Lightning Lake

Photo credit: NASA (Public Domain)

Despite the old adage, lightning actually often occurs in the same area. Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela has lightning storms almost half the days of the year. This is because of the area’s unique combination of moisture, temperature, and topography which tends to trap storms in the plains. Lightning is caused by an imbalanced electrical charge between a cloud and its surroundings. Often, lightning shoots from a negatively charged cloud to the more positively charged surface of the earth, but lightning can occur within or even above the cloud as nature attempts to balance the electrical charge around a storm.

Guiding Questions

  • Where is lightning likely to occur?
  • What features of the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere cause lightning?


Download a playlist for this module

  • Cooking Up A Storm

    This video explains the causes of lightning, many of which are present at Lake Maracaibo.

  • Lightning Detection - Jun 2011 - Aug 2012

    This map shows seasonality of lightning strikes over the course of a year. Ask students to identify the season with the most lightning.

  • Lightning Flash Rate

    This map shows where lightning most frequently strikes. Use with the Country Names Overlay and point out the dark red area around Lake Maracaibo in Northwestern Venezuela.

External Resources

Cross-cutting Concepts

  • C5: Energy and Matter
  • C7: Stability and Change

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS3.B: Natural Hazards
  • PS3.A: Definitions of Energy