Canadian lightning detection network: weather networks tour

lightning detector

Thunderstorms are always accompanied by lightning--they can also be accompanied by severe weather such as tornadoes or large hail.  The Canadian Lightning Detection Network (CLDN) reports lightning activity, helping forecasters to detect thunderstorms earlier and track them more accurately.  Canada's network of over 80 lightning sensors is combined with more than 100 similar sensors in the United States to form the largest lightning detection network in the world.

Lightning is a discharge of static electricity, jumping like a giant spark between charged parts of a cloud or between the cloud and ground.  Detectors like this one on the left report lightning strokes, their geographic location, the time they happened, the strength of the peak electrical current, and other related information.  All this information is beamed by satellite to the control centre where it's put into useable form and then transmitted on to the Storm Prediction Centres, again by satellite.  Within 30 or 40 seconds from the time a lightning stroke is detected by the sensor, the information is displayed on the forecaster's workstation.

Data collected by the lightning detection network is used not only to help forecasters detect and monitor thunderstorms but also for early detection of forest fires; for planning at power utilities; and for many other operations.  Environment Canada posts maps of lightning activity on our main weather Web site. To find out if there's any activity today, just follow this link.

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