Watch Lightning Strike the Earth from Outer Space

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A still image from the above video clip shows two of the lightning flashes and the cloud canopy associated with the strong storms near Houston.

A new satellite can capture lightning strikes from space, giving forecasters a better picture of what's happening during a storm.

NOAA's powerful new weather satellite is already helping forecasters predict potentially risky lightning -before it leaves the cloud.

The spectacular images will help meteorologists increase lead times for severe storm warnings.

NOAA National Weather Service forecasters have recieved data transmitted from the instrument - the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) - aboard the weather satellite that they never had access to before, thereby providing them with richer information about lightning that will help them alert the public to risky weather.

The mapper, the first lightning detector in a geostationary orbit, continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere. The lightning mapper is just one of a suite of high-tech tools created to help forecasters track storms and issue timely severe weather warnings.

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It continually monitors the Western Hemisphere, looking for lightning flashes that indicate when and where a storm is forming, and if it will become more risky. Current lightning detection networks in place across many land areas only detect cloud-to-ground lightning, but the new mapper also shows in-cloud lightning, which is more frequent and often precedes cloud-to-ground strikes.

In addition, the GLM can detect in-cloud lightning, which occurs five to ten minutes before lightning strikes the ground.

In dry areas, such as the western United States, the instrument could also help to identify areas prone to lightning-induced wildfires.

It "should revolutionize severe storm forecasting", Gasparrini said.

The GLM is transmitting data from aboard the NOAA's GOES-16 satellite, which made it to orbit this past November. That means it travels as fast, and in the same direction, as the earth spins, so it stays at the same spot above the equator.

"For weather forecasters, GOES-R will be similar to going from a black-and-white TV to super-high-definition TV", said Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Services division, using another name for the satellite.