NASA’s New Satellite to Observe Lightning Strikes and Help Scientists Predict Weather
Lightning has always fascinated and scared the hell out of humans for a long time. NASA will be launching a new satellite (GOES-R) on Nov. 19, 2016 that will for the first time supply uninterrupted and improved lightning observation over the North American hemisphere. It has been over a decade since researchers at University of Washington (UW) have been keeping an eye on global lightning from the ground.
Lightning is not only related to public safety since a new study by UW has shown how data gathered from lightning strikes can help in precise storm forecasts. Robert Holzworth, co-author of the study, said that whenever lightning strikes the earth, it's easy to fathom where the convection motion is the strongest. He added that most lightning takes place in clouds with ice.
Published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, the study shows a new technique to reconstruct lightning strikes into relevant information pertaining to weather. The US National Weather Service has already started using lightning as a device for better weather forecasts. However, this method has been restricted and scientists are of the view that it could be used in a broad range of forecasting systems in any corner of the globe.
The researchers tested this technique in two instances: the massive thunderstorm of 2012 in the US and a tornado in 2013 that killed many individuals in the Midwest region. Ken Dixon, the first author of the study, said that the data gathered from lightning helped them to adjust the air moisture, eventually improving weather forecast for a strong storm, rain, and wind event.
The study extracted information from the World Wide Lightning Location Network, which had a record of lightning strikes from 2004. They sell their data to government and commercial agencies besides working with scientists across the globe.
GOES-R will contain a geostationary satellite that will continuously observe lightning pulses over North and South America. It'll have the potential to enhance our comprehension of lightning as a hazard and an accurate forecasting tool, said Holzworth.