These movies and plots were prepared by K. S. Virts working in collaboration with M. L. Hutchins, J. M. Wallace, and R. H. Holzworth

Documentation of this work is in Virts et al. (2013).

Please send comments to Katrina Virts or Bob Holzworth


The ground-based World-Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) has continuously monitored global lightning since 2004.  We are pleased to make available a monthly and hourly climatology of lightning occurrence as detected by WWLLN.  This climatology was originally presented in Virts et al. (2013), based on four years of WWLLN data, and has been updated to include all lightning detected by WWLLN from 2005 to the present.

Below are links to lightning climatology maps and diurnal cycle animations.  These animations report stroke densities as detected by WWLLN and are not corrected for relative detection efficiency, which varies with time and location.  Comparisons between absolute intensities in different continental regions, using this work, could be misleading.  However, regional patterns of diurnal variations are relatively insensitive to geographical variations in detection efficiency.

See also WWLLN sensor locations as presented in the Virts et al. (2013) paper, with colors indicating when each station was established (note that some sensors were in place as early as 2004).  Black stars indicate sensors added during 2012-2013.

Global diurnal lightning animations

WWLLN’s annual-mean climatology illustrates the global distribution of lightning and its relationships with the underlying terrain.  The impact of the diurnal cycle can be illustrated by an animation of WWLLN hourly-mean lightning frequency.  To directly compare the diurnal cycle from one region to another, see an animation of lightning frequency as a function of local time rather than UTC.

Long-term, global lightning observations are also available from two satellite-borne Lightning Imaging Sensors (LIS) along with the Optical Transient Detector (OTD).  However, WWLLN samples ~100 times as many strokes per year as these satellites, permitting it to capture finer variations in both geography and time.

Continental and regional diurnal lightning animations

This section includes links to diurnal lightning animations organized by continent.  The diurnal cycle of lightning is particularly fascinating in regions with both coastlines and topography, where both land/sea breezes and mountain/valley breezes modulate the convection.  Here we provide high-resolution animations for many such regions.  Favorites are marked with an *.


For all maps, WWLLN lightning has been gridded at 0.1º resolution with units of strokes km-2 yr-1; all months are included; thin lines indicate the 100-m, 300-m, 500-m, 1000-m, and 4000-m elevation contours; and the lightning scale is logarithmic. 


Africa (animation, elevation)

·      Central Africa (animation, elevation)*

·      Madagascar (animation, elevation)

·      Southern Africa (animation, elevation)

·      Western Africa (animation, elevation)*

Asia (animation, elevation)

·      India (animation, elevation)

·      Persian Gulf (animation, elevation)

·      Philippines (animation, elevation)

·      Red Sea (animation, elevation)

·      Southeast Asia (animation, elevation)

·      Southern India (animation, elevation)

Australasia/Oceania (animation, elevation)

·      Australia (animation, elevation)

·      Borneo (animation, elevation)

·      Celebes (animation, elevation)

·      Indonesia (animation, elevation)*

·      Java (animation, elevation)

·      New Guinea (animation, elevation)*

·      Southeastern Australia (animation, elevation)

·      Sumatra (animation, elevation)*

Europe (animation, elevation)

North America (animation, elevation)

·      Caribbean (animation, elevation)

·      Central America (animation, elevation)*

·      Central USA (animation, elevation)

·      Florida (animation, elevation)

·      Hispaniola (animation, elevation)

·      Panama (animation, elevation)

·      Yucatan (animation, elevation)


·      Gulf Stream (animation, elevation)

·      Indian Ocean (animation, elevation)

·      Kuroshio (animation, elevation)

·      Mediterranean (animation, elevation)

·      Northern high latitudes (animation, elevation)

·      Pacific ITCZ (animation, elevation)

·      South Pacific (animation, elevation)

South America (animation, elevation)

·      Amazon Basin (animation, elevation)

·      Andes (animation, elevation)

·      Argentina (animation, elevation)

·      Brazil (animation, elevation)

·      Central Andes (animation, elevation)*

·      Northern Andes (animation, elevation)*

·      Northwestern South America (animation, elevation)


Seasonal lightning animations


We also make available seasonal lightning animations, averaged over all hours of the day.


Global (animation)

Africa (animation)

Asia (animation)

Australasia/Oceania (animation)

Europe (animation)

North America (animation)

South America (animation)

Accessing the WWLLN lightning climatology

The WWLLN lightning climatology may be obtained for research use by contacting Robert Holzworth or Katrina Virts.


We thank the World Wide Lightning Location Network, a collaboration among over 50 universities and institutions, for providing the lightning location data used in these plots.  The TRMM LIS/OTD climatology was obtained from NASA's Global Hydrology and Climate Center.  Coastline and elevation data were obtained from the National Geophysical Data Center.