Where in Africa are you most likely to encounter a bolt from the blue? According to newly published research by scientists in Brazil and the United States, it’s the Kahuzi-Biéga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, near the border with Rwanda.
The UNESCO World Heritage site is notable for more than its gorillas, because six out of the Top 10 African hotspots for lightning strikes are along the Mitumba mountain range – and one of them is second only to Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela as the most lightning-prone location anywhere on earth.
Nguti in Cameroon, and Baissa in Nigeria, round out the Top 10 list along with other DR Congo locations.
“Africa is the continent with the most lightning hotspots, followed by Asia, South America, North America, and Australia,” the researchers said in the peer-reviewed Bulletin of the American Meteorology Society report.
The continent accounts for 238 of the top 500 global lightning-strike locations, where they occur primarily in the afternoon away from the coasts, while ocean lightning is related to nocturnal storm patterns.
So how do the research scientists know that? The first estimates were based on weather station data in 1925, but decades later the monitoring information comes from a Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) that was launched on a NASA satellite in 1997. The research results come from daily observations taken for 16 years, from 1998 to 2013, in order to better understand the climate science and its implications.
The old LIS system is now out of service, but a new one is expected to replace it in early 2017. The new GOES-16 satellite launched in November also has a Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) expected to deliver “unprecedented continuous day and night total lightning observations” designed to give weather forecasters and researchers even more insight into weather and climate patterns.