Watch lightning strikes from space on NOAA's cutting-edge new satellite

Janie Parker
March 7, 2017

The new mapper also detects in-cloud lightning, which often occurs five to 10 minutes or more before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes. "Lightning strikes the United States on average of 25 million times each year, and kills on average 49 people in the USA each year".

"Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather", the agency said in a press release.

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. The images and video show lightning flashes across the Western Hemisphere over the course of an hour.

Specific storm regions will be updated every 30 seconds.

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

It works by looking for flashes anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, "so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying, and becoming more risky", explains NOAA.

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A rapid increase in lightning is often a good indicator that a storm is intensifying and could produce unsafe weather, according to NASA. Brighter colors indicate more lightning energy was recorded; color bar units are the calculated kilowatt-hours of total optical emissions from lightning. In the video above, you can see each lightning flash from a large group of thunderstorms located near the Gulf of Mexico on February 14, 2017.

This could allow them to issue flood and flash flood warnings, and warnings about lightning.

In dry areas of the country, the data can be used to help identify areas that can be prone to wildfires sparked by lightning.

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

It takes photos not only of the lightning bolts that hit the Earth, but also the bolts that go between or within clouds, which are actually more common and a precursor of cloud-to-ground strikes. This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat.

GOES-16 will build upon and extend the more than 40-year legacy of satellite observations from NOAA that the American public has come to rely upon.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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