The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have recently released the first images taken by a new instrument onboard the GOES-16 satellite.
The new instrument, dubbed as Geostationary Lightning Mapper, is considered to be first of its kind. Additionally, being the first ever lightning detector in geostationary orbit, GLM will help NOAA National Weather Service forecasters monitor the weather better by providing them richer information about lightning.
"As you can imagine, we are pretty excited here at NOAA Satellites," said Connie Barclay, a spokesperson for NOAA, in a report from National Public Radio. "Lightning strikes the U.S. on average of 25 million times each year, and kills on average 49 people in the U.S. each year."
GLM works by continually looking for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere. By searching for the flashes, forecasters could predict when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. Rapid increases of lightning can serve as a good indication that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather.
NOAA noted that data received from the GLM can not only show when thunderstorms are stalled or gathering strength, but can also help forecasters anticipate severe weather if used in combination with radar and other satellite data.
Aside from tracking lightning and thunderstorms, the GLM can also detect in-cloud lightning. Indoor lightning occurs five to 10 minutes, or more, before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes.
The GOES-16 satellite is a joint project between NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. First launched as GOES-R on Nov. 19, 2016 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the satellite was renamed to GOES-16 when it reached orbit.
GOES-16 is now observing the planet from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles above the surface of the Earth. Aside from the GLM, the satellite also carries various high-tech tools that monitors and detects severe weather pattern on Earth as well and solar fluctuations in the sun.
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