Shock And Awe: River Mouth In Venezuela Sets Guinness Record For Most Lightning Strikes

Whoever said that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice has never been to northwestern Venezuela.

The mouth of the Catatumbo River, which sits at the southern end of Lake Maracaibo in the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, recently claimed the Guinness World Record for highest number of lightning per square kilometer per year – notching an impressive 3,600 flashes per hour or 1.2 million a year.

Guinness Book of World Records representative Johanna Hessling was on hand earlier this week to present Venezuela with the curious honor. The country's vice president, Jorge Arreaza, was on hand to receive the Guinness certificate. It was unclear whether those attending the ceremony were wearing rubber-soled shoes or not.

The South American nation made its bid for the most electrifying place on earth when environmentalist Erick Quiroga sent a bid to Guinness after monitoring the lightning field for 17 years. The massive electrical storms that occur every April through November at the mouth of the river are believed to be caused by the convergence of ocean winds, warm river water, as well as the Andes and Perija mountain chains that surround the Catatumbo.

The United States’ National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the lightning is sometimes called the "Lighthouse of Maracaibo" and has been used by fisherman and sailors for centuries as a navigational aid.

“Catatumbo lightning is one of the world's most frequent lightning displays, with thunderstorms forming over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela an average of 160 nights per year,” NOAA wrote.

Quiroga said that the Guinness record "will have a big impact at a global scientific level, which is important for tourism in our country." Last year the Municipality of Catatumbo declared the region the "Lightning Capital of the World."

Venezuela is already planning to try to boost ecotourism in the area, the country's tourism minister Andres Izarra said.

Along with Catatumbo, Singapore and the Democratic Republic of the the Congo (DRC) in the immediate vicinity of the village of Kifuka receive a shockingly high number of lightning strikes.

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