Interested in lightning? Here are Top 10 most interesting and surprising facts about this awesome phenomenon:

1. Can lightning strike out of a blue sky? Yes, almost.

Some lightning bolts can appear to hit from a clear blue sky. A “Bolt from the Blue” is a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt, which comes from the side of the thunderstorm cloud and travels through clear air away from the storm, eventually striking the ground. They can strike tens of kilometers from the thunderstorm, under clear, blue sky, hence the name.

Bolt from the blue from the updraft tower on a storm in central Slovenia on July 21, 2016. Photo: Marko Korošec.

While most bolts from the blue hit within several tens of kilometers of the thunderstorms, they can reach much further out. A bolt from the blue struck 74 km (46 miles) ahead of an advancing squall line near Ponca City, Oklahoma on June 25, 2018.

Not feeling very safe? How about this? The longest detected lightning bolt happened on June 20, 2007 in Oklahoma. Remote lightning sensors detected a bolt which covered a horizontal distance of 321 km (199.5 miles). The bolt propagated from the main storm updraft along the stratiform anvil region of the storm (anvil crawler). Along the way, the lightning bolt produced 13 cloud-to-ground strikes. While technically not a bolt from the blue, the distance from the main thunderstorm updraft makes this a record-setting event.

2. The most time a single person was hit by lightning – 7 times!

United States park ranger Roy Cleveland Sullivan was hit by lightning 7 times. He was first struck in 1942 at age 30 and the last time in 1977 at age 65. He survived all 7 strikes, earning him the nicknames “Human Lightning Conductor” and “Human Lightning Rod”.

All seven strikes were documented by the superintendent of Shenondoah National Park, R. Taylor Hoskins. He was not, however, present during any of the seven reported events.

It is extremely unlikely that Mr. Sullivan was actually hit directly 7 times, rather at least some of the hits were indirect.

3. The place with the most lightning in the world is Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

The place with the most lightning in the world is in above the Catatumbo river, feeding into Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Up to nearly 150-300 lightning days per year, 30 lightning flashes per minute and 233 lightning flashes per square kilometer per year.

Comparison of lightning flash rate for Lake Maracaibo and Lake Victoria, the previous record holder for the highest lightning rate in the world. Units are in lightning flashes per square kilometer per year. Map: University of São Paulo.

Learn more:

The place with the most lightning in the world



4. Central Florida, USA gets so much lightning it is dubbed “Lightning Alley”

The area from Tampa to Orlando and Tampa to Titusville, Florida gets so much lightning activity, it has been dubbed “Lightning Alley”. By various sources the area receives anything between approximately 10 and 35 lightning flashes per square kilometer per year.

5. The place with the most lightning in Europe is northeastern Italy

Europe gets its fair share of lightning, particularly during the summer months. But the place with the most lightning is the Friuli region in northeastern Italy – with over 50 days with lightning per year. And, according to analyses, thunderstorm frequency in this area is increasing.

Big lightning barrage over the north Adriatic on September 24, 2017. Photo: Marko Korošec.


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