NASA Satellite Improves Storm Forecasting

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper is providing images to help forecasters anticipate severe weather and issue flood warnings earlier, according to the agency.

A lightning detector is now operational in a geostationary orbit and promises to improve forecasters' ability to predict severe weather, according to a report written by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Michelle Smith and posted on the NASA website.

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper is the first lightning mapper delivered to a geostationary orbit, and it will provide unprecedented data to forcasters, she wrote, adding that the device scans for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere "so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather."

"During heavy rain, GLM data will show when thunderstorms are stalled or if they are gathering strength. When combined with radar and other satellite data, GLM data may help forecasters anticipate severe weather and issue flood and flash flood warnings sooner. 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," Smith wrote. "Accurate tracking of lightning and thunderstorms over the oceans, too distant for land-based radar and sometimes difficult to see with satellites, will support safe navigation for aviators and mariners."

The mapper is aboard NASA's GOES-16 satellite, which was launched Nov. 19, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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