Researchers at EPFL have developed a novel way of predicting lightning strikes to the nearest 10 to 30 minutes and within a radius of 30 kilometers. The system uses a combination of standard data from weather stations and artificial intelligence.
Lightning is one of the most unpredictable phenomena in nature. It regularly kills people and animals and sets fire to homes and forests. It keeps aircraft grounded and damages power lines, wind turbines and solar-panel installations. However, little is known about what triggers lightning, and there is no simple technology for predicting when and where lightning will strike the ground.
At EPFL’s School of Engineering, researchers in the Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory, led by Farhad Rachidi, have developed a simple and inexpensive system that can predict when lightning will strike to the nearest 10 to 30 minutes, within a 30-kilometer radius. The system uses a combination of standard meteorological data and artificial intelligence. The research paper has been published in Climate and Atmospheric Science, a Nature partner journal. The researchers are now planning to use their technology in the European Laser Lightning Rod project (see inset).
“Current systems are slow and very complex, and they require expensive external data acquired by radar or satellite,” explains Amirhossein Mostajabi, the PhD student who came up with the technique. “Our method uses data that can be obtained from any weather station. That means we can cover remote regions that are out of radar and satellite range and where communication networks are unavailable.”
What’s more, because the data can be acquired easily and in real time, predictions can be made very quickly – and alerts can be issued even before a storm has formed.
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