Review and Microphysics of the Maximum Electricity Atmospheric Activity in the World: the Catatumbo Lightning (Venezuela)

Nelson Falcón (Universidad de Carabobo, FACYT, Dpto de Física, Laboratory of Physics of the Atmosphere and Ultraterrestrial Space, Apdo. Postal 129 Avda, Bolívar Norte, Valencia 2001, Carabobo, Venezuela)


A review of the state of knowledge and phenomenology on the site of the greatest atmospheric electrical activity in the world, known as the Catatumbo Lightning, located southeast of Lake Maracaibo (Venezuela), is presented. A microphysical model is presented to explain the charging process through electrical displacement within the cells of the cloud, incorporating the role of the self-polarization of ice and methane molecules as pyroelectric aerosol, which accounts for the phenomenology and is consistent with electrification in thunderstorm. It is concluded that the pyroelectric model allows to explain the phenomenology of the rapid discharges of the flashes in the Catatumbo lightning and could be applied in outer planetary lightning.


Catatumbo lightning; Atmospheric electricity; Microphysical of cloud; Aerosols; Methane

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