Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lightning detection promises improved storm forecasts

Charlotte Owen in An alternative to costly radar-based weather services could soon be operational in developing nations, to help them detect severe storms more cheaply and quickly. The technology, which uses lightning detection to forecast when and where storms will strike, has already proven successful in demonstration projects in Brazil, Guinea and India. Next year, Earth Networks — one of the companies at the forefront of the technology — will conduct further trials in Haiti.

As more developing nations increase their numbers of mobile phone masts, which are ideal locations for mounting the lightning sensors on, the proportion of countries using the technology looks set to increase, according to the US company.

Lightning detection costs a fraction of traditional Doppler radars, which can cost tens of millions of dollars for broad regional coverage. “Data from these stations would fill the gaps encountered in the collection and exchange of data on the regional and international level.”

Mamadou Lamine Bah, National Directorate of Meteorology  It also collects data faster and, by monitoring precipitation, can be used to assess the likelihood of floods and drought. According to Finnish company Vaisala, which has more than 100 lightning detection stations located in the United States, when lightning is detected the data can be delivered in less than two minutes.

Vaisala’s Total Lightning system detects the electromagnetic signals given off when lightning strikes the earth’s surface. Information on the location, time, and strength of each strike, and on whether it is positively or negatively charged is then processed and communicated to users of the technology....

Photo by Thomas Bresson, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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