First images of terrifying SPACE LIGHTNING above Earth

Lightning breaks during a thunderstorm in the Pakistani capital Islamabad

New Satellite Using High Tech Sensors to Pinpoint Lightning Strikes AFP 2016 MASROOR GILANI

A rapid increase in lightning is often a good indicator that a storm is intensifying and could produce unsafe weather, according to NASA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA launched the GOES-16 satellite last November to collect more useful data about global weather patterns to help meteorologists in forecasting.

So studying data from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper will help improve understanding of how storms grow and strengthen weather forecasts.

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 unsafe.

Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm is strengthening quickly and could produce severe weather, read the NASA website. This type of lightning typically occurs 5 to 10 minutes or more before potentially deadly cloud-to-ground strikes.

A new USA satellite is mapping lightning flashes worldwide from far above the Earth, which should provide better warning about risky strikes. Data from GOES-16 can help identify potential dangers and allow for warnings to be issued ahead of time. 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. 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. This means more precious time for forecasters to alert those involved in outdoor activities of the developing threat.

The GOES-16 weather satellite is scheduled to be fully operational later this year.

The tool could also provide more accurate predictions on which arid areas of the country could be more prone to brush fires due to lightning strikes.

Every second, dozens of bolts of lightning crack across the sky with flashes that can have a temperature of 50,000 degrees - five times as hot as the surface of the sun.

The satellite is equipped with six advanced onboard instruments, including Geostationary Lightning Mapper and Advanced Baseline Imager.

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