Lightning activity in the dry environment of northwest India and Pakistan (NW) and in the moist environment of northeast India (NE) has been examined from the Optical Transient Detector and Lightning Imaging Sensor data obtained from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite during 1995–2010. In the NW region, seasonal variation of flash rate is annual with a maximum in July but is semi-annual with a primary maximum in April and a secondary maximum in September, in the NE region. On diurnal scale, flash rate is the maximum in the afternoons, in both the NE and NW regions. The correlation of flash rate with convective parameters, viz. surface temperature, convective available potential energy (CAPE) and outgoing long-wave radiation is better with convective activity in the NW than in the NE region. Mean value of aerosol optical depth at 550 nm is ~ 26% higher and is highly correlated with flash rate in NW as compared to that in NE. Results indicate that CAPE is ~ 120 times more efficient in NW than in the NE region for production of lightning. The empirical orthogonal function analysis of flash rate, surface temperature, and CAPE shows that variance of lightning activity in these regions cannot be fully explained by the variance in the surface temperature and CAPE alone, and that some other factors, such as orographic lifting, precipitation, topography, etc., may also contribute to this variance in these mountainous regions. Further, the increase in CAPE due to orographic lifting in the Himalayan foothills in the NE region may contribute to ~ 7.5% increase in lightning activity. Relative roles of the thermally induced and moisture-induced changes in CAPE are examined in these regions. This study merely raises the questions, and that additional research is required for explaining the fundamental reasons for the reported observations here.