Lightning from space: Satellite promises a 'quantum leap' in forecasting

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Lightning from space: Satellite promises a 'quantum leap' in forecasting

"The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more risky", NOAA said in a press release.

The GLM is transmitting data from aboard the NOAA's GOES-16 satellite, which made it to orbit this past November.

Lightning strikes throughout the Western Hemisphere during a one-hour period on February 14, 2017.

This is one hour of GOES-16's Geostationary Lightning Mapper lightning data from February 14, when GLM acquired 1.8 million images of the Earth.

The newly released GLM image shows a view from February 14, when a number of storms popped up in the west.

The instrument is "a single-channel, near-infrared optical transient detector that can detect the momentary changes in an optical scene, indicating the presence of lightning", NOAA explains. The green cross is Houston, and the green dotted lines show the state's coastline.

The animation was rendered at 25 frames per second, similar to what we might see if we were high above the clouds.

Combined with other radar and satellite data, GLM could better predict when storms are stalling - aiding in flash flood warnings being issued sooner.

As well as heavy thunderstorms and floods, the GLM can help anticipate dry regions that may be prone to wildfires sparked by lightning. This type of lightning typically occurs 5 to 10 minutes or more before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes.

Included in GOES-16 is the "lightning mapper", which can detect lightning from space. This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat. When it is fully up and running, the satellite will 'provide images of weather pattern and severe storms as frequently as every 30 seconds, which will contribute to more accurate and reliable weather forecasts and severe weather outlooks, ' according to its mission overview page.

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