04/01/2017 12:20 AM AEDT | Updated 04/01/2017 8:38 PM AEDT

This Is The Most Lightning-Struck Place On Earth

Avoid at ALL costs.

Jorge Silva / Reuters
Lightning strikes over Lake Maracaibo in the village of Ologa, where the Catatumbo River feeds into the lake, in the western state of Zulia October 23, 2014. This year the Catatumbo Lightning was approved for inclusion in the 2015 edition of Guinness World Records, dethroning the Congolese town of Kifuka as the place with the world's most lightning bolts per square kilometer each year at 250. Scientists think the Catatumbo, named for a river that runs into the lake, is normal lightning that just happens to occur far more than anywhere else, due to local topography and wind patterns. Picture taken with long exposure October 23, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Silva (VENEZUELA - Tags: SOCIETY ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 10 OF 20 FOR WIDER IMAGE PACKAGE 'VENEZUELA'S ETERNAL STORM' TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'CATATUMBO LIGHTNING'

They say lightning never strikes twice. That might be true for most of the planet, but not if you’re in the middle of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo.

Each square kilometre of the vast lake is struck 233 times per year, more than anywhere else on Earth. It covers over 13,000km².

Scientists made the discovery while analysing data from a satellite that orbited the planet thousands of times between 1997 and 2015.

Jorge Silva / Reuters

Thunderstorms occur more frequently over land, in summer and between noon and 6pm, as warm air masses clash with cold ones.

But despite suffering a record number of zaps, Lake Maracaibo doesn’t fit the typical pattern of lightning strikes.

Scientists found that the Venezuelan record holder was more commonly struck between midnight and 5am, and in late spring and autumn.

Like many other lightning hot spots however, Lake Maracaibo is surrounded by steep peaks. Cold air from the mountains collides with warm air from the tropical waters below to generate thunderstorms frighteningly often.

“Lake Maracaibo is one of the largest lightning generators on the globe,” Robert Holzworth, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Washington who wasn’t involved in the new study, told Science Mag.

Lake Maracaibo is followed by Kabare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is struck 205 times a year, and Daggar in Pakistan, which is struck 143 times a year.

Early explorers in the Caribbean once used lightning over the lake as a reference point for navigation, such was the frequency of the storms. 

Lightning can prove lethal to humans, but it’s also hazardous to wild animals. In August last year, a “freak” strike in Norway killed more than 300 reindeer.

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