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Lightning can heat the air to 50,000° F — five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

“How hot is lightning?” is a bit of a trick question. Lightning itself doesn’t have a temperature, because it’s just the movement of electrical charges in the atmosphere. (You can think of it as one big spark of electricity that happens when positive and negative charges build up within a cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.) But that doesn’t stop lightning from heating up whatever it passes through — in this case, air. Air is a poor conductor of electricity, so it heats up tremendously when lightning strikes. In fact, lightning can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

Suffice to say that the air stays extremely hot near Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, home of what’s been dubbed the “everlasting lightning storm.” Known locally as Relampago del Catatumbo, or the Lightning of Catatumbo (named for a nearby river that enters into the lake), the phenomenon has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as involving the most lightning strikes (250) per square kilometer of any spot in the world. Ten-hour lightning storms occur some 150 times per annum, and lightning itself can be seen up to 300 nights every year.

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