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Lightning storm largest in California in 5 years

Lightning storm with clouds and purple glow, house lit up in foreground.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Art Ferrario in Merced, California, took this image at 11:28 p.m. on June 22, 2022. Art wrote: “Central California’s 1st monsoonal surge of the season.” Thank you, Art! This past week, California experienced its largest lightning storm in 5 years.

Biggest lightning storm in 5 years

A powerful lightning storm pummeled nearly 1/3 of California over two days this past week. From June 22 to June 23, the National Lightning Detection Network recorded more than 66,000 lightning events, the most in a single day in nearly 5 years. This 2-day lightning storm brought little rain to the drought-stricken area, but it did ignite a spate of mostly small wildfires. Sadly, one woman and her dogs were killed while out on a walk.

Lightning in California is relatively rare. Then, when it does come, it can come in the form of “dry” lightning or thunderstorms, which are storms accompanied by little to no rain. The US Drought Monitor shows nearly all of California in the category of severe drought (D2) to the worst category of exceptional drought (D4). Lightning that brings potential wildfire without rain is an unwelcome sight in the state.

Map of California with red and orange areas plus key.
Most of California is suffering from a years-long drought. Image via US Drought Monitor.

Lightning ignited small wildfires

According to Wildfire Today, the lightning storm ignited many small wildfires in California, though most were quickly extinguished.

Firefighters are investigating one fire, named the Thunder Fire, that started on June 22 and may have been caused by lightning. This fire near Grapevine, California, has burned nearly 2,500 acres and is 65% contained as of the morning of June 24.

Bottom line: A two-day lightning storm pummeled California from June 22 to June 23 with more than 66,000 lightning events, bringing little rain but sparking wildfires.

June 24, 2022

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