Satellite sensor spots storms

An instrument to detect lightning from space will give an insight into the formation and progression of storms, collect climatology data and provide an early warning system for severe storms.

The Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) has been awarded a $2 million, 12-month contract by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to develop its Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) instrument that will fly on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-R Series environmental satellites. GLM is designed to monitor convection on a global scale via lightning to provide new insights into the formation, distribution, morphology and evolution of storms, and allow investigation into the mechanisms at the core of the global water and energy cycle.

The observation of lightning by GLM will provide a means of penetrating cloud tops and detecting convective activity continuously over whole continents and adjacent oceans. Current observation systems inadequately measure the lightning characteristic of clouds.

GLM will use the information it gathers on the dynamics and life cycles of storms to improve understanding of fast-moving atmospheric convection. This will lead to a better comprehension of the Earth as a system, which combined with long term GLM observations will lead to significant improvements in monitoring changes in storm climatology. In addition, since intense and increasing in-cloud flashes are known to precede severe weather by tens of minutes, the real-time transmission and distribution of GLM data would greatly improve the lead-time for severe storm warnings, particularly for tornadoes.