Paper Accepted that Describes Limitations of Spaceborne Lightning Observations and How they Could be Improved

Timothy Lang (ST11) is the sole author on an article called “Validation of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper with a Lightning Mapping Array in Argentina: Implications for Current and Future Spaceborne Lightning Observations,” which was recently accepted for publication the journal Earth and Space Science. Based on a comparison with a NASA ground-based, three-dimensional Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) that was deployed to Argentina during 2018-2019, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on board the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 16 (GOES-16) detects lightning with nearly 75% efficiency, which meets its requirements. However, that detection efficiency decreases a lot when thunderstorms produce a lot of lightning at once, or small lightning flashes, or when lightning occurs deeper in the cloud where it is more difficult for the optical pulse to make its way to cloud top. This makes GLM, as well as similar sensors like the International Space Station Lightning Imaging Sensor (ISS LIS), somewhat less useful during the most intense part of a storm’s life. Using a simple model, Lang demonstrates the benefits of improved detectability of small, optically dim lightning flashes for more fully characterizing thunderstorm behavior using lightning observations.

Read the paper at:

Lang Lightning improvements graphic

One-minute lightning mapping array (LMA), GLM, and improved GLM (assuming 30% increase in flash detectability relative to the LMA) for 23 February 2019. (a) Focused on LMA, with associated detected LJs. (b) Focused on GLM, with no detected LJs. (c) Focused on improved GLM, with associated detected LJs.

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