Predicting when lightning will strike

Aug 22, 2013
Predicting when lightning will strike
Credit: Shutterstock

When something is unlikely to happen, people often say that there is a greater chance of being struck by lightning. The fact is however that lightning does strike, and is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury.

Furthermore, important infrastructure including airports, hospitals, and power lines can often be affected by lighting. Electronic components are particularly vulnerable to -induced transient voltages.

There is therefore a potentially huge market for accurate lightning data. National Meteorological Services (MET) in a number of Member States already provide some data, in most cases because of the incidence of . Lightning is estimated to cause up to 16% of forest fires in the EU, costing ?70 million in mitigation efforts a year.

However, this data tends to be very expensive for end users, and is often not accurate enough to make a significant difference. The EU-funded LOLIGHT (Lightning Mapping and Supercell Tracking System) project sought to address this by developing a low-cost system capable of detecting lightning to an accuracy of 100 metres.

In addition, the system can track and predict lightning events in real time, and map lightning patterns within an area of 200 km.

This project has outstanding commercial potential. The accurate and quick location of strikes can help reduce costs associated with lightning, such as forest fires. Power distribution companies also stand to benefit from this service, since they can prepare for storm-caused by proactive load management plans before operations are impacted.

When power disturbances are not handled quickly, there is risk of cascading failure. When a power line goes down, the electricity that once flowed down the damaged line is forced down other paths. If those other lines are already close to full capacity, the onslaught of electricity will cause them to overload as a result of , creating a domino effect that is the leading cause of massive blackouts.

The project also offers cost savings for airports and the air traffic control sector. During lightning threats, aircrafts have to re-route around the hazardous area, using up fuel and man hours. By using precise, real time monitoring, routes can be planned more accurately, benefiting both the industry and passengers.

Explore further: Extending climate predictability beyond El Nino

More information: MFKK mfkk.eu/
LOLIGHT www.lolight.eu

Related Stories

NASA image: Fires in Idaho and Montana

Aug 21, 2013

Fires that started in July continue on in late August in Idaho and Montana. Actively burning areas, detected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer's (MODIS) thermal bands, are outlined in red.

NASA's Firestation on way to the International Space Station

Aug 06, 2013

An experiment to study the effects of lightning flashes on Earth's atmosphere hitched a ride to the International Space Station on Aug. 3, 2013. The Firestation experiment launched aboard a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals 'two faces' of phytoplankton

just added

Phytoplankton, commonly known as plant plankton that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, are potentially a key driver of Arctic warming under greenhouse warming, a study reveals.

Frontier science in ocean-going lab

3 hours ago

Oceanographer Dr Martina Doblin is preparing for one of the most significant explorations of her career. In early June, a mobile laboratory known as the Micro-CSI will leave from Brisbane aboard Australia's ...

Extending climate predictability beyond El Nino

6 hours ago

Tropical Pacific climate variations and their global weather impacts may be predicted much further in advance than previously thought, according to research by an international team of climate scientists ...

Ocean currents impact methane consumption

23 hours ago

Large amounts of methane - whether as free gas or as solid gas hydrates - can be found in the sea floor along the ocean shores. When the hydrates dissolve or when the gas finds pathways in the sea floor to ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.