Hitting The Hot Spots

Scientists attending a recent American Geophysical Union meeting reported on a new lightning detection network that helps predict storms and pinpoint “hot spots” of lightning activity. Comparing two years of human observations of thunderstorms to data collected from a network of magnetic lightning detectors, Ronald Reap of the National Weather Service’s Techniques Development Laboratory, Silver Spring, Md., found that the magnetic detectors identify three to four times as many thunderstorms as the human observers do. The magnetic detectors in the network he studied use small antennae to sense electromagnetic waves created when lightning disturbs Earth’s magnetic field. Researchers are using the improved detection capability to assist in forecasting severe storms and to map “lightning climatologies,” the distribution of lightning over geographic areas. The detectors are especially useful for locating developing thunderstorms obscured by other meteorological activity Such information helps scientists to understand exactly what occurs in...

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