(WMC) - Lightning research has been going on for decades, but there is still a lot to learn about how it occurs, how often it occurs, and where it will occur. One thing that is known is that increased clusters of lightning strikes often signal an increase in storm intensity or tornado potential. The launch of the new GOES-16 last November includes the new Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which will provide constant lightning data as storms evolve, because it will follow the earth's orbit over the western hemisphere in one spot.
Currently, the International Space Station provides lightning data using similar technology but it orbits the earth every hour and a half, so it does provide continuous data. GOES 16 will provide lightning data throughout storm initiation until it falls apart, filling in those gaps. Storms often exhibit a significant increase in total lightning activity, often several minutes before the radar detects the potential for severe weather. This new lightning data from GLM combined with current radar data, satellite data, and surface observations has potential to increase lead time for severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings and reduce false alarm rates. This nonstop feed of lightning data will help our team of meteorologists give even better lead times for development of severe storms and maybe even tornadoes. That will allow everyone that lives in tornado-prone areas like the Mid-South to have more time to get to their safe place before severe weather hits.
The GLM is currently in the testing phase and is not officially being used in an operational capacity. However, it is expected to go into full operation mode in later this year around November 19. Some of the satellite data (clouds for example) is already available for viewing and observation. The detail and higher resolution of the GOES 16 satellite will also aid in better forecasting in the future.
Go to http://www.goes-r.gov/spacesegment/glm.html for more information and details on this new satellite and lightning technology.