Forecasting lightning

July 15th, 2021 |

Lightning safety is important for aircraft, mariners, and many outdoor activities. CIMSS is working to evaluate a model that nowcasts lightning. This model was trained using GOES-16 ABI visible, near-infrared, and long-wave infrared channels, as well as GOES-16 Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) observations. It predicts the probability of lightning (IC or CG, as observed by GLM) in the next 60 minutes at any given point. The model routinely provides lead-time to lightning initiation of 20 minutes or more. We’re hopeful that one day such a model will help forecasters provide guidance for aviators, mariners, and decision support services (DSS) for things like sporting events, festivals, and theme parks. Near-real-time model output can be viewed using SSEC’s RealEarth.

Below are a few examples, with the forecast lightning probability contoured over the daytime cloud phase RGB and GOES-16 GLM flash-extent density.

So this summer, whether you’re going to the South Carolina beach,

or sailing in the Gulf of Maine,

or hiking in the Rocky Mountains,

or catching the first MLB game in Iowa,

be on the lookout for lightning!