Lightning is one of the most common and captivating natural events on Earth. With more than eight million strikes every day, lightning occurs all over our planet. But some places experience far more activity than others.
The video starts by following the orbit of the ISS. As it passes over Earth, lightning strikes detected in its swath glow yellow. The video then pivots to a roving 10-day window of strikes. This smooths out some of the artifacts from the ISS orbits. As time passes, you can see when and where lightning strikes occur. Some interesting patterns emerge.
There’s a seasonality to lightning strikes. They’re far more frequent during warmer months in each hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere sees a majority of events between March and September. Lightning strikes in the Southern Hemisphere happen most often between September and March.
Lightning also occurs more frequently over land than oceans. But some places seem less conducive to lightning. North Africa, home to the Sahara Desert, sees comparatively fewer lightning events. Despite being at similar latitudes, Mexico and India are much more active.
While most of these events cause little harm, lightning still kills about 20 people in the US every year. Maps like this can help us better understand lightning behavior as well as where people are most threatened.