NASA has its eyes in the sky keeping track of all kinds of climate and weather happenings. One interesting (and kind of scary) thing the agency tracks is where lightning strikes around the world. NASA has kindly put the data in maps that show the trends so we know where and why lightning is likely to hit next.
Their brightly colored maps clearly show some hot zones ̵ ominously portrayed in black.
The high-resolution map above shows a composite of strikes from 1995 to 2002. The darker the color, the higher the concentration of lightning hits — which can indicate many thousands of strikes a day. The lower resolution map below is NASA's current map showing the data in more detail.
Both maps make it clear warmer areas over land are prone to more strikes. And you might as well put a bulls-eye over a few places where the perfect storm of weather conditions means the strikes come regularly and often.
The Catatumbo River in Venezuela, Kifuka — a town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — and the area in between Tampa and Orlando, Florida are all places that record a high concentration of regular cloud to ground lightning.
These places are subject to warm, moist air that gets thrust upwards either by river or sea breezes, or mountains. The warm surface air forced to rise quickly creates the instability that often triggers the lightning.
Of course, the weather is an unpredictable thing, and any time there are unstable weather conditions like the ones above lightning could happen. Just recently nature put on a show with an amazing eight strikes recorded at once on the Golden Gate Bridge — not your typical hot zone.
As the weather is getting warmer all the time and climate patterns are shifting, the area where there are more predictable strikes could grow.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lists the odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime (estimated to be 80 years) as one in 3,000. That's close enough odds for me to bookmark these maps and consider them the next best thing to calling Mother Nature directly.