GOES-16 captures incredible lightning display

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Since its launch back in November, the GOES-16 satellite has been capturing weather phenomena in ways we’ve never seen before. Some of the most incredible imagery was captured by the new Geostationary Lightning Mapper this past weekend as storms swept through the Midwest and South. This imagery is already giving us more insight into storm structure, as jumps in lightning have been linked to tornado development.

This is preliminary data, which means it still needs to be tested for reliability. The way NASA and NOAA are validating the data is through a field campaign this spring.

Why do the clouds disappear in this video? You probably noticed that for a period in the video (which spans from Friday afternoon through Saturday at midnight), only the lightning appears. That’s because unlike infrared imagery, visible satellite imagery is dependent on a light source. That source is the sun, so when the sun sets we lose visible satellite imagery. The lightning mapper can still detect the lightning though, so with the two products seen here only the lightning is visible during night.