News flash: lightning viewer lights up online

Bureau of Meteorology adds to storm tracking capabilities


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TRACKING: A new lightning viewer is available through the Bureau of Meteorology. Photo: Glenn Campbell.

TRACKING: A new lightning viewer is available through the Bureau of Meteorology. Photo: Glenn Campbell.

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Bureau of Meteorology adds to storm tracking capabilities

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A NEW lightning tracker service is available on the Bureau of Meteorology’s high definition satellite viewer.

Weather radars cover 90 per cent of the country, but the satellite coverage will add storm tracking capability for large tracts of the outback.

“Adding the new lightning layer to the satellite infrared cloud image will also help Australians living in remote areas with limited radar coverage to identify severe weather and track thunderstorms," said Bureau general manager data Dr Anthony Rea.

Lightning can be viewed as a ‘layer’, or selected option, on the Bureau’s Himawari satellite cloud viewer.

Coverage extends across the country, and into surrounding high seas.

The lightning tracker adds to the storm monitoring capabilities of the Bureau’s local weather radars.

“The radar shows where it is raining and from that you can infer where storms are, but it doesn’t tell you if lighting is associated with a storm,” Dr Rea said.

The satellite capability provides advanced warning of dangerous weather.

“Lightning is dangerous. It is associated with thunderstorms and can occur well away from the storm’s centre," Dr Rea said.

“The service is of benefit to everyone, but the biggest benefit is for people who don’t have radar in their area.”

The satellite tracker uses different technology to a weather radar.

Dr Rae said the radar system uses a spinning transmitter on a pole that uses pulses of radio waves to build a picture of the atmospheric conditions. 

The lightning tracker technology uses a network of sensors, which extends across the country, to pick up the electromagnetic pulses that are given off by lightning. A lightning event discharges radio waves, which the detectors locate to build a map of storm activity.

Dr Rae advised that the lightning tracker service was not a replacement for the Bureau’s regular thunderstorm warning service.

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