Sci-tech

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

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

NASA released video and pictures Monday taken by GOES-16 using its Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument showing lightning over southeast Texas recorded on February 14. The satellite can essentially sit over storms and show whether they are getting stronger.

This sample animated imagery from the GLM provided by NOAA was taken on February 14, 2017, near the Texas Gulf Coast where severe storms pushed through and spawned tornadoes.

The first images from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, a new instrument onboard the recently launched GOES-16 satellite, were released Monday. It is displayed over GOES-16 ABI.

This satellite can scan the globe five times faster than current satellites, and it includes the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), the first lightning detector in geostationary orbit.

Constantly watching for lightning in the Western Hemisphere, the GLM takes hundreds of images each second.

Rapid increases of lightning flashes are a sign that the storm is intensifying quickly, according to NASA.


The GLM is operating aboard the GOES-16 satellite, which observes Earth from roughly 23,000 miles above the surface.

The instrument can also show when a thunderstorm has stalled, or if it is gathering strength during heavy rains.

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, American space agency NASA reported.

NOAA's satellites are the backbone of its life-saving weather forecasts. It will also capture lightning information for areas where that data is sparse, including over oceans, NOAA says. When combined with radar and other satellite data, GLM data may help forecasters anticipate severe weather and issue flood and flash flood warnings sooner.

Combining the forces of two GOES-16 instruments, the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, for cloud imaging and the never-before used lightning mapper - forecasters will be able alert people of developing threats. The ability to monitor in-cloud lightning is important because it often precedes cloud-to-ground strikes by 5-10 minutes, giving meteorologists the ability to alert of the danger in advance, NOAA reports.


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