Where does lightning occur?This map from NASA shows color variations indicating the average annual number of lightning flashes per square kilometer.

WhereThe new maps show that Florida, for example, is one place where the rate of strikes is unusually high. This is because Florida experiences two sea breezes: one from the east coast and one from the west coast. The ‘push’ between these two breezes forces ground air upward and triggers thunderstorms.

And where does lightning strike most frequently? Central Africa. There are thunderstorms all year around due to weather patterns, air flow from the Atlantic Ocean, and enhancement by mountainous areas.

The satellite data also track patterns of lightning intensity over time. In the northern hemisphere, for example, most lightning happens during the summer months. But in equatorial regions, lightning appears more often during the fall and spring.

Meanwhile, areas such as the Arctic and Antarctic have very few thunderstorms and, therefore, almost no lightning at all.

Oceanic areas also experience far less lightning. People living on some of the islands in the Pacific don't describe much lightning in their language. The ocean surface doesn't warm up as much as land does during the day because of water's higher heat capacity. Heating of low-lying air is crucial for storm formation, so the oceans don't experience as many thunderstorms.

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