It’s called Catatumbo, and is a unique weather phenomenon that would seem reserved for another planet or a in a fictional tale. Well, it is real, and in our atmosphere. It takes place at the mouth of the Catatumbo river, where it empties out into Lake Maracaibo.
The mass of storm clouds that create this storm are massive, over 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) high. It happens anywhere from 140 to 160 nights a year. When the lightning hits, it can keep going for up to 10 hours. The storm can spit lightning up to 280 times an hour.
This storm has been occurring for centuries. We see the first record of it in an epic poem, ‘La Dragontea’, in 1597, by Lope de Vega. The storm has had a marked impact on the history and development of the area. The state containing Lake Maracaibo, Zulia, mentions the storms in its anthem.
There are a few theories as to why this happens with such constant frequency, in such a contained and specific environment. No where else does a storm happen within such a specific, set, unerring area. Also the storm is different in the rate of energy disbursement. As mentioned earlier, the lightning can strike up to 280 times. The stream of lightning is almost continuous.
Closed wind circulation has a contributing effect on the storms. Andrew Zavrostky investigated the area three times over the span of 1966 to 1970. He concluded that the lightning has several epicenters in the marshes of Juan Manuel de Aguas National Park, Claras Aguas Negras, and west Lake Maracaibo. In 1991 he suggested that the phenomenon occurred due to cold and warm air currents meeting around the area.