Lightning detection quite simply works by listening for identifying noises on a radio spectrum to determine the strength and ultimately the distance of lightning strikes in the area. The detector uses directional antennas to determine the distance of the lightning. The data is then sent to software that plots the strikes on a map.
The National Lightning Safety Institute released an overview of lightning detection equipment article yesterday. In the article, NLSI stresses the importance of lightning detection systems due to their ability to give notice to shut down dangerous operations before the arrival of lightning. In addition, after lightning the detection gives an “all clear” signal, which is highly influential to the public.
According the NLSI, the available technologies currently include:
- Radio Frequency (RF) Detectors – measure energy discharges from lightning
- Inferometers – more precise and require a skilled operator
- The National Lightning Detection Network
- Atmospheric Field Mill Monitors – measure voltage changes of Earth’s electric field and report changes, which build lightning
- Optical Monitors – earlier warning, which detects the cloud-to-cloud lightning that occurs before cloud-to-ground lightning
- Hybrid Designs – combination of other technology designs
- Subscription Services (such as accuweather.com, intellicast.com, skyview-wx.com, etc.)