On February 18, 2017 a carbon copy of the previous Lightning Imaging Sensor that was released in the 90’s, was sent up to the International Space Station.
This tool is designed to capture real-time lightning strikes on Earth. The previous LIS that was released in 1997 has done an exceptional job collecting data over the last decade or more. As a result, NASA wanted to release another one to preform the same functions. So what is the difference between the two and why another one?
The current LIS that is now flying high on the International Space Station will be orbiting the earth and collecting lightning data across a wider geographical area (specifically all middle and lower latitude regions) as opposed to the previous one released in 1997 that only collected lightning data across the equatorial regions. This LIS was known as Tropical Rainfall Measuring Instrument (TRMM)and performed for 17 years aboard the ISS before being shut down.
The carbon copy LIS that was sent up last week has begun to orbit the earth on the International Space Station which now has ” a higher orbital inclination and therefore provides a vantage point that will allow the LIS to observe areas closer to the poles in the Northern and Southern hemispheres,” NASA officials said.
The current LIS will perform duties such as measuring amount, rate and optical characteristics of lightning in Earth and is scheduled for a two year mission. Even more exciting, especially for Meteorologists, is the study on the correlation between lightning and other severe weather events, such as convective storms (Synoptic and non-synoptic) and tornadoes.
“The space-based vantage point allows us to observe all forms of lightning over land and sea, 24 hours a day,” Dr. Richard Blakeslee (Senior Atmospheric Researcher at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center) said in the statement. “The orbit of the space station will allow LIS to look at lightning distributions over different times of the day, further enhancing our knowledge of the complicated dynamics of lightning.”
It will be very exciting to see where this next generation of lightning detection take us as weather forecasters and meteorologists.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Merry Matthews
Headline image: NASA