Storm Weather Forecast: NASA To Use Lightning Data

By Rodney Rafols , Nov 11, 2016 09:54 PM EST

Lightning strikes have always been beautiful, and yet at the same time, they are deadly. The sound of thunder has been frightening to many children for so many years. There might be more to lightning though, as lightning is actually helpful in storm weather forecast, and NASA to use lightning data for it.

For meteorologists, lightning is more than just a beautiful light show. It has its use that is now being considered in forecasting storms. Researchers from the University of Washington have been studying lightning for more than a decade. Robert Holzworth is one of the study's co-authors and is also a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences. He said that lightning can be used to know where the strongest convection is since that is the point where the storm is the strongest.

The study is looking at lightning at a new light. It is now being used to forecast short- term weather. In a way, this is now being done as the US National Weather Service is using this method to forecast storms. Lightning data can be used to measure air moisture, as noted by study lead author Ken Dixon, who has graduated from the University of Washington and is now with The Weather Company.

It has been noted that measuring air moisture, temperature and wind speed is lacking in places where there are no ground stations, according to UW Today. By using lightning to gauge these, information about a storm could be more accurate.

"We have less skill for thunderstorms than for almost any other meteorological phenomenon," remarked Cliff Mass, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and also a co-author of the study. He said that with the study, lightning information has the potential to give storm forecasting more accuracy.

This is most useful in areas where ground stations are not possible, such as in the ocean, as Science Daily notes. Mass said that this is most true for tropical storms, since most storms occur in the tropics. This could be helpful for people who are always prone to have storms in their area.

NASA will launch a satellite on November 19 that will have an instrument to watch for lightning pulses. The new GOES-R satellite will have the instrument calibrated by Holzworth. Lightning observations would be made by the satellite from North and South America.

With the new study, it has been shown that lightning is actually helpful in storm weather forecast. NASA is also to use lightning data for it. Lightning isn't frightening as people think, but could actually be a guide as to how strong the storm would be. In a report earlier, climate change could be costly for many people.

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