Electric Current
Electricity and Magnetism

The ‘everlasting’ storm

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Typically, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 thunderclouds active at any given time around the world, producing a global positive current of around 1.25 kA flowing from the tops of thunderclouds to the ionosphere.

Even so, lightning is typically not a common occurrence. But visitors to one part of Venezuela stand a very good chance of encountering a storm. At the entry point of the Catatumbo River into Lake Maracaibo, a microclimate is created in which 10-hour-long lightning storms are observed around 150 nights of the year. The storms produce an average of 1.2 million lightning flashes a year, contributing 0.2 A to the global total lightning current.


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