Vaisala reports 194 million lightning events in the US in 2021, an increase of 24 million from 2020

Source: press release, 3 January 2022

From record-breaking lightning in the Arctic to severe wildfire outbreaks, accurate lightning data is an essential tool to measure extreme weather related to climate change
From record-breaking lightning in the Arctic to severe wildfire outbreaks, accurate lightning data is an essential tool to measure extreme weather related to climate change (illustration: Vaisala)

Vaisala, a global provider of weather, environmental, and industrial measurements, including comprehensive lightning data, has published its 2021 Annual Lightning Report. The Vaisala report reveals a total of 194,226,288 in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning events in the continental US, compared to 170,549,822 in 2020, an increase of 24 million events or 14%.

Report findings leverage intelligence from the longest continuously operating and most scientifically validated lightning detection network in the world, Vaisala’s National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), and the only truly global lightning detection network, Vaisala’s GLD360. Supported by more than three decades of unparalleled data history, detection accuracy, and analytical capabilities, the 2021 report is Vaisala’s most comprehensive lightning report to date.

Key findings from the 2021 report include:

  • The Arctic lightning surge: Vaisala’s 2021 report demonstrates a dramatic increase in lightning in the northernmost region on Earth. Vaisala detected nearly double the amount of lightning north of 80° than in the previous 9 years combined, totalling 7,278 lightning strikes in 2021.
  • December 2021 extreme weather anomaly: The US witnessed extreme weather rarely seen in December, with more than 1 million lightning events during the record-breaking storms that devastated many regions across the US.
  • More than 2 million acres burned due to lightning-triggered wildfires: More than 2 million acres across the drought-stricken western US were burned in wildfires initiated by dry lightning. This number includes the Bootleg Fire in Oregon that burned more than 400,000 acres in 40 days.
  • Texas and Florida top the list: Once again, the Lone Star State led the nation with 41,914,516 total lightning strikes, while Florida endured a total lightning density greater than in any other state, with 223 lightning events per square mile.
  • Monsoon (and lightning) returns to Southwest US: The return of monsoonal lightning across the American Southwest saw Arizona, Nevada, and Utah all experience an above-average number of lightning events.

“With 194 million events across the US in 2021, lightning is an essential climate variable that needs to be accurately monitored to not only protect lives and infrastructure but also to help the world better understand and interpret our constantly changing environment,” says Chris Vagasky, meteorologist and Lightning Applications manager at Vaisala. “This past year reminded us all that severe thunderstorms and extreme weather can happen at any time and anywhere, reinforcing the importance of high-quality global lightning data to track and monitor changing weather events worldwide.”

For more than 30 years, Vaisala’s suite of robust lightning products and services has played an instrumental role in helping people make critical operational and safety decisions based on real-time storm and lightning data. As an ambassador for NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation, an initiative to ready communities for extreme weather, water, and climate events, Vaisala continues to provide its industry-leading monitoring and measurement intelligence to equip decision-makers to better understand, forecast, and explain changing weather phenomena to help keep people safe.

For additional information on NLDN, GLD360, or to download the report, visit