A new weather satellite parked 22,300 miles above Earth has sent back its first images of lightning storms on our planet, and they are, well, pretty flashy.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the satellite, released the first image from a new instrument, a lightning detector. It shows lightning flashes over the course of an hour on Valentine’s Day, from the Gulf of Mexico down to the southern coast of South America.
The agency also released the video below showing images of the lightning storms developing over southeast Texas on that day — part of the same system that created the bright blotch of lightning activity in the hemispheric image above. In the video, the green dotted lines designate the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.
Tornadoes from that storm system destroyed homes near Houston. NOAA hopes information about lightning can help weather forecasters predict severe weather, including tornadoes, more accurately.
The video animation strings together images from the weather satellite’s Geostationary Lightning Mapper to simulate “what your eye might see from above the clouds,” according to the technical caption.
Unlike traditional time-lapse animations that appear jerky because the images are presented more quickly than they were gathered, this video is a slower version of what the satellite sees, brought down from the satellite’s 500 frames per second to a more human 25 frames per second.
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