In recent weeks, the European meteorological agency Eumetsat has made available on their website a series of breathtaking videos of lightning striking in various places around the globe.
These results were generated by fresh new equipment that was deployed 36,000 kilometers above the equatorial area of Africa in the month of December. The tropical region of Africa is located in the middle of Africa.
The imager will become a crucial equipment for meteorologists to employ in their monitoring of the development of severe storms once it has been totally commissioned and all of its features have been activated.
Lightning strikes often occur first in severe thunderstorms, even before the onset of heavy downpours of rain, hail, and even powerful gusts of wind.
Phil Evans, who is now serving as the director general of Eumetsat, described the videos as being “outstanding.”
“The Americans have had an instrument identical to this over their region of the world for a few years now, but this is the first one for Europe and Africa,” he said in an interview with News.
As a result of our image’s superiority over those of our competitors in terms of both resolution and performance, there is a great deal of excitement about the potential uses for the photographs that it generates.
The very first images captured by Europe’s brand-spanking-new weather satellite
The storm that struck the British Isles in 1903 was one of the windiest storms ever recorded there. The temperature of the land surface in the United Kingdom likewise reached a new all-time high and established a new record.
A work of art, the Meteosat-12 satellite
Artistic creations: Meteosat-12 is a component of a potential upgrade to Europe’s system for monitoring the weather, which would cost several billions of dollars.
The administration of Europe’s meteorological assets that are space-based is the responsibility of the international organization known as Eumetsat.
It has just recently completed the launch of the Meteosat-12 platform, which is a weather-observing spacecraft of the next generation, and it is presently putting it through its paces in the testing phase. Scientists are anticipating that it will launch a step shift in what is known as “nowcasting,” which is the forewarning of potentially dangerous atmospheric conditions on extremely short time horizons, on the scale of mere hours.
The ability to monitor and analyze the behaviors of lighting will be an essential aspect of this capability.
Meteosat-12’s lightning detector is outfitted with four telescopic cameras, each of which is explicitly aimed at a different area of the world, including sections of South America, parts of Africa, and the Middle East.
Please refer to the following caption for more details: On the 12th of June, the imager tracked a lightning swarm throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
Their detectors are always on the lookout for the light pulses produced by cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-cloud, and intra-cloud lightning bolts.
They are able to do this at any time of the day or night, and they will even catch a single bolt of lightning if given the opportunity.
“The lowest length of a lightning [detection] is 0.6 milliseconds; that means 1,000 times faster than the blink of an eye,” said Guia Pastorini, an employee of Leonardo, an Italian aerospace company that designed and constructed the apparatus.
There is a fantastic video of the lightning that struck the United Kingdom on June 12 that you can see online.
This information was made even more fascinating by the discovery of a “Mesoscale Convective System,” or MCS for short. According to Simon King, a BBC Weather forecaster, “the location of the thunderstorms was recorded quite accurately by the satellite.”
“This is a thunderstorm that, given the correct set of circumstances, may evolve into a more intense storm and give birth to further showers. This area of cloud was first seen by the satellite in the southeast of England; however, as the cloud moved northward and westward, we were able to observe lightning bolts emerging on the leading edge of the cloud.
Lightning is often an early warning sign of potentially dangerous weather.
For the goal of detecting lightning, forecasters already have access to ground technology that has been quite effective in Europe. The Arrival Time Difference Network (ATDNet) identifies a discharge as a result of the radio frequency emission it is creating. In addition to it, there is the application of radar.
Lightning networks have a propensity to detect predominantly cloud-to-ground lightning strikes as opposed to cloud-to-cloud or intra-cloud lightning, according to Simon Keogh, director of space applications and nowcasting R&D at the UK Met Office. “However, the lightning networks have a tendency to identify cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in substantial numbers,”
According to the expert, “the cloud-to-ground impacts only account for around 10% of the overall lightning activity in the sky.” Because of this, the optical satellite is catching up on lightning activity within the cloud, which accounts for the remaining 90% of the total. These two different approaches are well suited to work in tandem with one another.
The perspective of Meteosat-12 looking down on Earth: The newly developed technology ought to be of significant benefit, in particular to African countries.
In addition, the number of radio frequency systems is far lower in Africa, despite the fact that this is the region with the most significant lightning strike frequency in the whole world. As a consequence of this, forecasters are likely to find the information that Meteosat provides to be of great use.
The process of monitoring the waters always follows the same format. The imager is watching what is happening out over the ocean, which could lead to safer flight routes for long-haul flights in the future.
The new imager will likely pique the curiosity of climate researchers, who will be interested in the data that it collects. As a result of having access to this information, they will be able to compile far more accurate statistics on the frequency of lightning strikes over the course of time.
The lightning imager is made up of a total of four separate telescopes, which are shown above as gold cylinders.
Even those who devote their careers to researching the atmosphere will find this subject quite fascinating. The energy of lightning transforms “unreactive” nitrogen in the atmosphere into “reactive” forms, which subsequently precipitate out of the atmosphere as nitrates to feed the earth’s surface.
This study may also help improve the models that are used to forecast the areas of forest fires that may be started as a result of lightning strikes. This would be a very beneficial outcome of the research.
The spaceship is going to go through a series of tests throughout the rest of this year. The national forecasting organizations, such as the Met Office in the United Kingdom, Meteo France, and DWD (the German Meteorological Service), should start making regular use of the information that Meteosat-12 delivers somewhere in the early part of the year 2024.