NASA weather satellite sends striking lightning images

08 March, 2017, 00:21 | Author: Lorena Waters
  • NOAA’s GOES-16 weather satellite delivers 'flashy' first images from its lightning mapper

The flashes of lightning can reach up to 50,000 degrees - five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

Pinpointing exactly where and when these unsafe bolts hit the Earth is key for forecasting severe weather outbreaks.

GOES-16 is the first of four satellites, part of a $10 billion program, to help improve weather forecasting of incoming weather hazards.

GOES-16 or the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), is the first kind of lightning detector in a geostationary orbit which has been developed by a joint collaboration of NOAA and NASA.

The satellite will also be protecting astronauts from solar flares and charged particles with early warnings.

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The instrument is the first ever to see lightning above Earth from space. The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is intensifying and becoming more risky.

It can detect lightning inside clouds, which usually occurs several minutes before potentially destructive lightning strikes from clouds to ground. "It will show the lightning activity at the tops of the clouds", said Steve Goodman, a NOAA program scientist.

Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather, read the NASA website. The satellite is on a mission to monitor Earth weather, but it also specializes in tracking lightning strikes and thunderstorms.

Using this data, forecasters will be able to determine whether or not a storm is gathering strength, and may be able to assist meteorologists in forecasting severe floods or even the possibility of fire hazards due to lightning strikes in dry areas. 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. That means it travels as fast, and in the same direction, as the earth spins, so it stays at the same spot above the equator.

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