January 12, 2009
By Thomas A. Horne
Lightning photo credit: NOAA
The next GOES satellite (dubbed GOES R, and set for launch in 2015) may be capable of predicting the onset of convection and lightning. Researchers are now testing several of the current GOES satellites’ eight infrared channels in hopes of developing warning algorithms.
GOES R is being designed to automatically send lightning strike data to air traffic control, where the information would be stored and used for warning airports of impending lightning strikes.
Researchers under Professor John R. Mecikalski of the University of Alabama-Huntsville are working on a program they hope will give 10 to 65 minutes’ worth of lead time before convective storms begin. Their techniques involve correlating certain infrared emissions with the cloud-top freezing processes already known to begin the chain of events that culminate with lightning.
Tests involving thunderstorms in Central America have already proven that the team’s forecasting techniques can yield predictions of lightning as much as one hour before the first stroke is recorded. Such satellite-based lightning forecasting, once perfected, would bring about earlier convective forecasts, more specific locations of forecast storm cells, and a more accurate ranking of storm severity.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
The FAA is working to automate a contingency plan developed on the fly when Chicago Center was taken out by arson from within Sept. 26.
AOPA has urged College Park, Maryland, to make approval of a hotel construction project near the city airport conditional on reducing the building’s height.
The North Dakota Aeronautics Commission is seeking the participation of pilots and businesses that rely on general aviation in two separate online surveys.
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