Watch the sparks fly! New weather satellite shows lightning in real time from space

SEATTLE (KOMO) - Meteorologists across the nation have been giddy with the launch of the new GOES-16 weather satellite, which is the most technologically advanced satellite we've ever had. It's still in practice mode until it becomes officially put in service this spring, but NOAA has been teasing us with some imagery and videos during its calibration and the results are ridiculously cool.

This is video taken from storms on the Texas coast near Houston on Feb. 14. What's even more amazing - this video is in REAL TIME! This is not time lapse!

Monday, NOAA put out the first images from the satellite's lightning mapper system, which will give forecasters much better information on lightning. It's the first lightning detector in geostationary orbit, NOAA says.

"The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous," NOAA said in a press release showcasing the lightning data. "Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather."

NOAA says the new mapper also detects in-cloud lightning, which often occurs five to 10 minutes or more before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes.

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.

"This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat," the agency said.

NOAA has set up a web page occasionally showcasing more goodies on the way via GOES-16.

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


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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