NASA Scientists Use Lightning to Help Predict Hurricane Intensity


Instead of chasing storms, NASA researchers are using new weather prediction methods to see storms ahead of time.

By studying lightning, the team of scientists is working to develop new ways to help forecast the intensity of incoming hurricanes. Typically, an increase in lightning within the storm signals that the storm is likely to strengthen. But sometimes even weakening hurricanes have large lightning outbreaks, so forecasters must carefully analyze additional data to determine what a lightning outbreak really means for predicting a hurricane's intensity.

A team of scientists led by NASA researcher Patrick Duran recently published a study on the evolution of lightning flash density, flash size, and flash energy during Hurricane Dorian. Duran and his team support NASA's Research and Analysis Program, Weather Focus Area, as part of the Short‐term Prediction Research and Transition Center at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Duran and his colleagues used a new tool on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's latest series of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) to capture information about lightning in hurricanes. GLM continuously detects the size and energy of lightning flashes, even over the open oceans.

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Image via NASA Marshall Space Flight Center