If you fear lightning, stay away from central Africa: It is the most-struck place in the world, according to a comprehensive new map of lightning frequency (below). High mountains and moisture-rich air cook up storms that blast the region year-round, says Dennis Boccippio of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. He and his colleagues compiled five years of data from two Earth-observing satellites, whose "glorified digital video cameras" were sensitive enough to spy flashes even during the day. To the researchers' surprise, the worst outbreaks of lightning occur in locations with the largest number of thunderstorms, not necessarily those with the most intense thunderstorms. Next, Boccippio and his collaborators aim to put similar cameras on ordinary weather satellites, with the long-term goal of using lightning data to forecast severe weather.
Lightning strikes per square kilometer per year
Photograph courtesy of NSSTC Lightning Team/NASA