Map of Global Lightning Strikes

Caitlin Dempsey


Need to know where to go in order to get hit by lightning more than once?  NASA has the answer for you.  Based on data collected from  1998–2013 by the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) on NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite, and from 1995–2000 by the Optical Transient Detector (OTD) on the OrbView-1/Microlab satellite, a global map showing the lighting flash rate (number of flashes per kilometer per year) was created.

Where Does Lightning More Frequently Occur?

Based on satellite observations, researchers found that lightning occurs more frequently over land than it does ocean: “The higher frequency of lighting over land makes sense because solid earth absorbs sunlight and heats up faster than water; this means there is stronger convection and greater atmospheric instability, leading to the formation of thunder and lightning producing storms.”

Where in the World Are the Most Lightning Strikes?

As a year round average, Central Africa and Northwestern South America experience the most lightning strikes.  The Brahmaputra Valley of far eastern India experiences a high number of strikes during the month of May due the unstable heating and weather patterns that occur before the onset of the Monsoons.

The highest amounts of lightning flashes occur in the far eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela.

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Map of the Average Density of Lightning Strikes

The global maps shows the average density of lightning strikes per square kilometer based on data from 1995 to 2013. Areas of low lightning strikes are shaded gray and purple.  The areas with the most strikes are bright pink (as many as 150 per year per square kilometer.

More: Global Lightning (NASA).

Map showing Global Lightening Strikes showing intensity in shades of pink to deep purple.
Map of Global Lightning Strikes. Source: NASA
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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.