Lightning tends to scare people away, except in the case of a viral video of lightning that has taken the internet by storm (no pun intended).
The Lightning Footage That Went Viral
On Monday, May 21, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released "first light" footage of storms rapidly intensifying as they formed across the Midwest. The satellite footage shows users the actual lightning flashes from the storms.
It was originally captured on May 9 by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on the GOES-17 satellite.
What is GOES-17?
GOES-17, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, is a weather device operated by NOAA. It launched into space in March 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. NASA assisted NOAA by designing and launching GOES-17.
The satellite is currently within a six-month checkout period over the United States. It will eventually shift 137 degrees of longitude to the west above the Pacific Ocean. In the next 15 years, it will cover weather from the West Coast, plus other solar activity from space.
The goal of GOES-17 is to improve the way that scientists forecast the weather and to conduct meteorology research. Compared to previous satellites, GOES-17 has the ability to gather more data and to track Earth at a faster rate.
What Is The Geostationary Lightning Mapper?
Located on GOES-17 is the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), which is used primarily to measure and record lightning. It also captures data that most scientists never see. The technology behind GLM can provide forecasters with important information, such as the timing of the storm and how dangerous it could be. The GLM can also determine when thunderstorms are getting stronger or weaker. This information could be used to warn people about upcoming storms sooner.
What's interesting about GLM is the ability to use data to predict where the storms will likely travel to next. The GLM will record data in the Western Hemisphere. It will be especially helpful in dry areas that are vulnerable to wildfires because lightning is also a leading cause of them.
"Data from the instrument will also be used to produce a long-term database to track decadal changes in lightning activity," NOAA wrote on its website. "This is important due to lightning's role in maintaining the Earth-atmosphere electrical balance."