Has climate change now begun to affect the ozone layer? Tipping points, and consequences…
The Catatumbo Lightning (Spanish: Relámpago del Catatumbo) is an atmospheric phenomenon in Venezuela. It occurs strictly in an area located over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. The frequent, powerful flashes of lightning over this relatively small area are considered by some to be the world’s largest single generator of tropospheric ozone. It originates from a mass of storm clouds that create a voltaic arc at more than 5 km of height, during 140 to 160 nights a year, 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour. It occurs over and around Lake Maracaibo, typically over a bog area that forms where the Catatumbo River flows into the Venezuelan lake.
The storms have an annual occurrence of 140 to 160 nights, each lasting up to 10 hours per night and each producing up to 280 strikes per hour. Furthermore, these thunderstorms produce a high percentage of all the ozone production worldwide. The Catatumbo Lightning can be considered a major regenerator of the planet’s ozone layer, as it produces approximately 1,176,000 kW of atmospheric electricity.
After appearing continually for centuries, the lightning has not been seen since January 2010, apparently due to a drought, raising fears that it may have been extinguished permanently.
I have looked for more information on the current status of the Catatumbo lightning, but have found nothing. An entry on Wikipedia claimed that it returned in April 2010 – which might be true, hopefully it is, but there was no supporting reference for this claim.
There’s a good article on the subject in the Guardian, from March 2010.