Weather patterns are changing drastically in South Africa.
For proof look no further than the countrywide drought, followed by heavy rainfalls that caused flash floods across the country. The recent cancellation of the Cape Town Cycle Tour due to severe winds also serves as a reminder that Mother Nature can be difficult at times.
There are early warning systems for severe storms, but to date it has been impossible to predict whether lightning strikes will be part of the package.
It may not seem like a big deal, but according to the SA Weather Service, an average of 260 people are killed by lightning in South Africa every year. These deaths often occur in sparsely populated areas in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal.
Basically, you never want to be caught outside in the countryside during a severe lightning storm and an early warning system would be a welcome advantage.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the USA recently developed the first-ever lightning detector, called the Geostationary Lightning Mapper.
It’s fitted onboard the GOES-16 Sattelite and it basically scans the surface of earth for lightning strikes. By finding these strikes and analysing the frequency, it can predict when a lightning storm is forming and whether it would be dangerous to anyone near it.
Watch the footage below to see the Geostationary Lightning Mapper in action. It’s fairly satisfying to see how small and insignificant a lightning strike looks from space.