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Where does the world’s lightning occur?

Lightning
Chris Vagansky, Vaisala
Chris Vagasky
Meteorologist and Lightning Applications Manager
Published: Jun 21, 2021
Meteorology
Weather & Environment

An important part of building lightning safe communities is an awareness of when, where, and how much lightning occurs. These details about lightning allow safety experts and preparedness specialists to develop strategies for improving lightning safety awareness and education efforts around the world. Thanks to data from Vaisala’s National Lightning Detection Network NLDN and Global Lightning Dataset GLD360, that information is at our fingertips.

On April 20, 2021, Vaisala released a first of its kind interactive lightning map. With this map, users were able to travel around the world to see how much lightning occurs each year for every country around the world and every state and county in the United States. It is important to note, however, that lightning patterns vary across distances, and even in locations with high lightning density values, there can be regions with low lightning density. Our updated map, released today, illustrates this fact! For instance, zooming to central Africa, you can see wide ranges in lightning density across one of the most lightning prone regions of the world.

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Figure 1: Switching from “Land” to “Density Contour (GLD360)” data view shows the unique distribution of lightning in each country around the world.
Figure 1: Switching from “Land” to “Density Contour (GLD360)” data view shows the unique distribution of lightning in each country around the world.

 

Lightning also occurs over the oceans, potentially hazardous to shipping and aviation. The latest map release has made oceanic lightning data available for viewing. You can view oceanic lightning as density contours, like in Figure 1, or accumulated in Longhurst Ecological Provinces or NAVAREAs.

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Figure 2: Oceanic lightning binned by Longhurst Ecological Provinces and NAVAREAs.
Figure 2: Oceanic lightning binned by Longhurst Ecological Provinces and NAVAREAs.

 

As we recognize the start of Lightning Safety Awareness Week 2021, we hope this updated interactive lightning map increases your awareness of how much and where lightning occurs around the world. Lightning can and does occur from pole to pole all around the world, so whenever thunder roars, go indoors!

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