How UAH researchers plan to use 90s tech to improve tornado warnings

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Crews in a clean room pack up the parts of a lightning imaging system, which will find its way to the International Space Station.

It all looks cutting edge, but UAH Research Professor Hugh Christian points out, "This was actually originally built in the 90's. So it's 1990 technology. As a lightning imaging system, it was the flight spare."

The counterpart of this system has lived on a satellite in space since 1997 and it's still going strong.  As for the spare, Christian continues, "After all these years we finally have gotten the ability to put it on the space station, which we're looking very much forward to."

That will give the imaging system a wider view of the severe weather it tracks, showing more of the US. Tracking lightning can give vital information.

Christian adds, "Lightning can be used to give a pre-cursor of storm intensification."

That means more warning on tornadoes. Maybe twice as much warning. Christian adds, "Plus, we think it will give us better data, because instead of just giving flash counts, we'll have the total energy that's being released by the lightning."

Any extra data on severe weather in this area comes much appreciated.

The researchers at UAH hope to have the gear on the ISS within the year. They say they believe they will get back data almost immediately.