STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it is reviewing lightning prediction technology that can probe where lightning strikes are likely to occur before it even begins to rain.
The agency said artificial intelligence technology, called ProbSevere LightningCast, can accurately predict lightning up to an hour before the first flashes of a storm.
National Weather Service forecasters across the country have been evaluating the tool and said the technology has performed favorably in real-time.
Using data from NOAA’s GOES-16 and GOES-17 satellites — which detect and map lighting strikes across North and South America — the experimental artificial intelligence product has been trained to recognize complex patterns that often precede lightning activity.
The result: forecasters can see where lightning is most likely to hit and when activity is at its highest. The technology can also help determine when the threat from lightning is diminishing.
The NOAA said LightningCast was used by the National Weather Service’s Birmingham, Alabama, office during the World Games in July.
The games’ organizers utilized the product to help support scheduling decisions. Multiple events were postponed due to lightning, said the NOAA, underscoring the effectiveness of the technology.
“Not only is the satellite data useful for depicting current weather conditions and aiding in warnings, but it is also critical for predicting hazardous conditions in the future,” said the NOAA. “The LightningCast tool demonstrates a new way to use satellite data to help keep us informed and stay safe.”
The data provided by the technology provides awareness of local lightning conditions and can lead forecasters to sharing information that leads to better lightning safety decisions, ultimately leading to fewer lightning-related injuries and deaths.
Lightning kills about 20 people each year in the United States and hundreds more are injured by lightning.
The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) can not only detect current lightning activity, but its data, along with data from the GOES-16 and GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI), can also help predict the occurrence of lightning in the future.