Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM)

On November 19, 2016 the GOES-16 satellite was successfully launched and on January 15, 2017 relayed its first image back to Earth. Over the next 15 years the GOES-16 satellite will send images back to earth every 30 seconds. With spring fast approaching, one of the new instruments aboard the satellite will give National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists a powerful tool for monitoring and forecasting severe weather.

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) is the first operational lightning imager ever placed into geostationary orbit. The GLM will enable scientists to have continuous coverage of total lightning activity. Lightning is one of the top three causes of weather related death and injury in the United States each year. Additionally, one of the key indicators of a strengthening thunderstorm on the cusp of producing a tornado is a significant increase in lightning activity several minutes before a tornado touches down. By combining the new GLM observations with existing systems like Doppler radar, forecasters may be able to issue a tornado warning quicker giving those in the storm’s path extra time to prepare and take shelter.

The benefits of the GOES 16 satellite and its GLM device extend beyond better tornado forecasts. Beginning this year, NWS forecasters will be able to:

  • Issue improved local thunderstorm forecasts and warnings of impending lightning strike hazards.
  • Issue more timely warnings for severe weather hazards such as hail, flooding and strong winds
  • Provide better support for aviation safety and efficiency
  • Issue more accurate quantitative precipitation estimates for hydrology, water resources, agriculture, weather forecasting, and climatology
  • Issue better tropical cyclone forecasts.
  • Provide new observations for atmospheric chemistry and improve air quality forecasts.

Although the GOES 16 is still officially undergoing post-launch testing for the first year, the satellite is already hard at work, generating images and perspectives on our weather that we’ve never seen before. You can observe the action in real time too! Follow GOES R on twitter for daily images and updates. And for information on all of the cool things GOES R will be capable of, from space weather forecasts to improved climate change monitoring, be sure to visit the NOAA GOES R information page.