Published: Tue, March 07, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

New NOAA technology shows real-time lightning from space

New NOAA technology shows real-time lightning from space

The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more unsafe.

The lightning detector is in geostationary orbit - it remains in the same location relative to the ground below it - allowing it to continuously track lightning storms. The satellite can essentially sit over storms and show whether they are getting stronger. The brightest storm was located over the Gulf Coast of Texas.

GOES-16's premier imager, one of six science instruments, will offer three times as many channels as the existing system, four times the resolution and five times the scan speed. That can help forecasters determine how fast a storm is forming and becoming more unsafe.

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

The agency, which forecasts weather and monitors the Earth's climate, revealed the first Global Lightning Mapper imagery on March 6, showing what the satellite is capable of.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA launched the GOES-16 satellite last November to collect more useful data about global weather patterns to help meteorologists in forecasting.

According to NASA, the animation is rendered at 25 frames per second, simulating what the human eye might see from above the clouds. In dry areas, especially in the western United States, information from the instrument will help forecasters, and ultimately firefighters, identify areas prone to wildfires sparked by lightning.

"For weather forecasters, GOES-R will be similar to going from a black-and-white TV to super-high-definition TV", said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Services division, using another name for the satellite.

NOAA released on Monday the first images captured by the GOES-16 satellite, snapped on Valentine's Day from 22,300 miles above Earth.

The GLM is also able to detect in-cloud lightning.

The mapper detects in-cloud lightning, which happens five to 10 minutes before it could strike the ground while the ABI provides data and images in real time, as frequently as every 30 seconds. This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat.

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