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Oklahoma named new lightning capital of America

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Florida may be giving up its title as America’s lightning capital.

While the Sunshine State’s claim has long been undisputed, new weather data suggests that’s no longer the case. 

Meteorologists at the Finland-based environmental monitoring company Vaisala found that Oklahoma had narrowly surpassed Florida for the most lightning flashes per square kilometer from 2016 to 2020. 

Lightning events per square kilometer that were recorded in the Sooner State totaled 83.4 during that period, while Florida saw a slightly lesser 82.8 lightning events. 

Additionally, AccuWeather noted on Tuesday that there are some “nuances” in the types of lightning strikes that factored into Vaisala’s conclusions, including both cloud-to-ground lightning and in-cloud lightning.

The company also reported that two Central Florida counties led the nation with an annual average of more than 159 lightning strikes per square kilometer.

Part of the reason, Vaisala meteorologist Chris Vagasky told The Washington Post on Tuesday, has to do with each states’ climate.

Lightning strike in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lightning strike in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Florida is known for summer thunderstorms fueled by sea-breeze collision, while Oklahoma sees supercell storms and mesoscale convective systems common in the Plains.

In the US, only one other state — Louisiana — saw more than 60 such events. According to Vaisala’s data, the state averages 71.9 events per square kilometer per year.

Texas and Arkansas placed fourth and fifth, respectively, on the list.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the US as a whole averaged just 18 flashes per kilometer and noted that lightning kills about 27 Americans each year and injures more than 240.

According to National Geographic, around 100 cloud-to-ground lightning bolts strike Earth’s surface every second.

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