Zap Map: Satellite Tracks Lightning for Better Heads Up

A new U.S. satellite is mapping lightning flashes worldwide from above, which should provide better warning about dangerous strikes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday released the first images from a satellite launched last November that had the first lightning detector in stationary orbit. It includes bright flashes from a storm that spawned tornadoes and hail in the Houston region on Valentine’s Day.

NOAA scientist Steve Goodman said ground radar sees lots of cloud-to-ground lightning, but this satellite provides more detailed views of lightning within clouds. Cloud flashes can later turn into ground strikes, hitting people like a bolt out of the blue. Scientists say this could add more warning time.

Earth gets about 45 lightning flashes a second, but 80 percent stay in clouds.

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