NATIONAL (WCIA) — Four Corners, Florida, an area just a few miles to the south and west of Orlando, was found to have the highest lightning strike density of anywhere in the entire U.S. in 2022, according to Vaisala’s annual report on the weather phenomenon. But which town is the lightning capital in Illinois?
The report named a lightning capital for each state, and found that Divernon Township had the highest lightning density in the state of Illinois. Divernon had 233 lightning strikes per square kilometer in 2022.
Lightning activity varied significantly across the U.S. state, with a stark contrast in lightning capitals. For example, while Lime Village saw the highest concentration of lightning strikes in Alaska (3 per square kilometer), it comes nowhere near Greensburg, Louisiana, where there were 387 strikes per square kilometer in 2022.
See each state’s lightning capital below, according to Vaisala’s report:
|State||Lightning capital||Strikes per square km.|
|Alaska||NE of Lime Village||3|
|New Hampshire||Waterville Valley||20|
|New York||Seneca Knolls||63|
|South Carolina||St. George||193|
|West Virginia||Mount Olive||133|
The state of Florida ranks highest for lightning density, with an average of 109.84 lightning strikes per square kilometer last year. The state of Texas ranks highest for the total number of lightning strikes, with 27,696,688 strikes last year.
Illinois is ranked eleventh overall in total in total lightning density, with an average of 39.34 strikes per square kilometer last year. Illinois also took the eleventh spot for total number of strikes with 5,900,602 strikes in 2022. Illinois previously ranked eighth for both density and total strikes in 2021.
Decrease in lightning linked to Mississippi River record lows
Illinois was not alone in its decrease in lightning events, the report highlights a large section of the Mississippi River basin had below-normal lightning events. Up to half of the annual rainfall in the basin comes from large thunderstorm systems.
Additionally, the Mississippi River drains about one-third of the precipitation in the United states, as the river travels through ten states. A decrease in thunderstorm events throughout the region, not just in the immediate basin, impacts river water levels.
The report indicated that this all contributed to the severe drought conditions that impacted the Mississippi River in fall 2022, where parts of the river reached record lows. Water levels were so low that shipwrecks and Civil War artifacts were uncovered, and shipping, irrigation, and drinking water supplies were impacted.
Unusually high lightning in Hurricane Ian
The report also highlighted the unusually high levels of lightning within the eye of Hurricane Ian. The storm most likely had the highest number of strikes of any Atlantic system. Pacific systems far outpace Atlantic storms in the number of lightning strikes.
Lightning within the eyewall of a hurricane is a measure of the storm’s intensity. A threshold for a strong storm is called Enveloped Eyewall Lightning (EEL) and it occurs when the lightning has been throughout the eyewall for more than six hours.
Vaisala studies lightning strikes using the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and the Vaisala Global Lightning Dataset (GLD360), which they say detect more than 2 billion “lightning events” every year.