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Catatumbo lightning UPSC NOTE

 Catatumbo lightning

  • Catatumbo lightning is a mesmerising natural phenomenon that occurs over the Catatumbo River in Venezuela, where lightning strikes almost continuously

  • This phenomenon primarily happens at the mouth of the Catatumbo River, where it meets Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in Venezuela.

  • A convergence of several factors give rise to the unique conditions required for Catatumbo lightning. 

  • Warm, moist air from the Caribbean Sea is pushed towards the Andes mountains, where it collides with cooler air descending from the peaks

  • This collision creates a perfect storm of sorts, as the warmer air is forced to rise rapidly by the shape of the local landscape

  • And as it does, it cools and condenses, forming towering cumulonimbus clouds.

  • Meanwhile, the combination of strong winds and temperature differentials generates electrical charges within these clouds

  • The cumulonimbus clouds — sometimes reaching heights of more than 5 km — load up on static electricity. 

  • When the electrical potential within the clouds becomes too great, it discharges in the form of lightning.

  • Catatumbo lightning is distinguished by its frequency and duration: the strikes occur for up to 160 nights in a year, with an average of 28 lightning strikes per minute at its peak

  • Thanks to this constant flow of current, the area has earned the title of “the lightning capital of the world

Catatumbo River

  • The Catatumbo River is a river rising in northern Colombia, flowing into Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela

  • It forms a part of the international boundary between the two countries. 

  • The river's name means "House of Thunder" in the language of the Bari people.

  • The river flows through the Catatumbo moist forests ecoregion.

  • It then flows through the Maracaibo dry forests ecoregion before emptying into Lake Maracaibo.

  • Prior to emptying into Maracaibo, the Catatumbo River also merges with the Zulia River.

  • Together with the nearby Escalante River, Catatumbo is a producing area for cocoa beans of the Criollo cultivar.

Lake Maracaibo

  • Lake Maracaibo is a brackish lake located in northwestern Venezuela, between the states of Zulia, Trujillo, and Mérida. 

  • Hydrologically, it is a semi-enclosed bay off the coast of the Gulf of Venezuela

  • With a surface area of 13,512 km2, it is the largest lake in South America and one of the oldest on Earth, having formed disputably as a lake 36 million years ago in the Andes Mountains.

  • The lake is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela to the north by a narrow spit. 

  • It is fed by numerous rivers, the biggest being the Catatumbo River. 

  • The fault in the northern section has collapsed and is rich in oil and gas resources

  • It is Venezuela's main oil producing area and an important fishing and agricultural producing area. 

  • Eutrophication caused by oil pollution is a major environmental problem facing the lagoon. 

Lake Maracaibo

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Catatumbo lightning UPSC NOTE
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