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Tracking lightning from Space: How satellites keep you safe during thunderstorms?

16 July 2018

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Lightning strikes, giant sparks of electricity in Earth's atmosphere that are hotter than the surface of the sun, are a major hazard during thunderstorms. Knowing when and where lightning is occurring can tell us a lot about a storm - including its location, whether it's intensifying, and if the storm is capable of producing severe weather.

That's where the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) comes in. The groundbreaking instrument on-board the NOAA GOES East (GOES-16) satellite has allowed us to see lightning from space like never before, mapping cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-cloud, and intra-cloud lightning from more than 22,000 miles above Earth. The GLM is the first optical lightning detector on-board a satellite in geostationary orbit, and is the first of four instruments that will provide lightning mapping over most of the Western Hemisphere through 2036.

Source: NOAA

Image credit: NOAA Virtual Lab - This GOES East GLM imagery shows a high concentration of lightning flashes over the Northern Plains on 11 June 2018.

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