Weather

Storm reports and rainfall totals from Monday evening

April 8th, 2014 at 1:55 pm by under Weather
UPDATE: Click here for an excellent analysis of Monday's storm system, produced
by our local National Weather Service office.  Also, At the bottom of this
report you will find area rainfall totals. 

PRELIMINARY LOCAL STORM REPORT...SUMMARY
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
1021 PM CDT MON APR 07 2014

..TIME...   ...EVENT...      ...CITY LOCATION...     ...LAT.LON...
..DATE...   ....MAG....      ..COUNTY LOCATION..ST.. ...SOURCE....
            ..REMARKS..

0600 PM     HAIL             6 N SISTERDALE          30.06N  98.73W
04/07/2014  E0.50 INCH       KENDALL            TX   COCORAHS

            HAIL SIZE ALMOST HALF AN INCH.

0635 PM     HAIL             7 NE LBJ STATE PARK     30.30N  98.54W
04/07/2014  M0.50 INCH       BLANCO             TX   COCORAHS

            PEA TO HALF INCH SIZE HAIL.

0644 PM     HAIL             2 E BLANCO              30.10N  98.39W
04/07/2014  E0.50 INCH       BLANCO             TX   PUBLIC

            PEA TO HALF INCH SIZE HAIL.

 (more...)

Thank you for supporting Petcasso!

April 7th, 2014 at 4:08 pm by under Weather

Our mascot Kaxan and I were honored to be the hosts of Animal Trustees of Austin’s Petcasso event Sunday night. You might recall from Kaxan’s recent appearance on the news with us that he was also one of the celebrity painters this year.

Well, we are pleased to announce that in the auction, Kaxan’s artwork, which was paired with professional artist Hank Edward’s beautiful piece inspired by Kaxan’s work, sold for $5,100!

Thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers and those of you who attended or supported Petcasso in other ways. It was a huge success!

If you don’t know about Animal Trustees of Austin, you should. Click here to visit their website, where you are also welcome to make a tax-deductible donation!

Kaxan back stage at Petcasso

Kaxan back stage at Petcasso

Jim and Kaxan ready to take the stage

Jim and Kaxan ready to take the stage

Kaxan's painting day

Kaxan’s painting day

Kaxan's masterpiece

Kaxan’s masterpiece

 

Epitome in Six by Hank Edwards

Epitome in Six by Hank Edwards

Epitome in Six by Hank Edwards

Edward Flores, Kaxan's trainer, artist Hank Edwards, Jim Spencer, Grace Sharington

Kaxan’s trainer Edward Flores, Kaxan, artist Hank Edwards, Jim Spencer, Grace Sharington

Here’s more about Hank:

Based in Austin, Hank is a self-taught artist. Although well versed in all paint mediums, his primary focus is acrylic on canvas with a concentration on vibrant contrasting colors.
Hank’s creative side showed itself in early childhood when he was drawn to the escape he found in drawing and painting. Throughout his high school years, Hank felt that art would have a prominent place in his adult life, but found himself caught up in the often necessary and all-too-common rat race. With the exception of a few doodles here and there and the occasional tattoo flash design for a friend, his art all but ceased to exist. For nearly two decades the drive for what the world perceives as success had Hank firmly in its grip, smothering his flame of creativity but to a flicker. Hank often says, “God had different ideas for me”, and this has proven itself to be a truth in his life. Hank now spends the majority of his time painting commissioned pieces. He has also generously donated his art to charitable auctions, and shares his gifts with people in the recovery community in the greater Austin area.

 

 


Sunday rainfall totals

April 6th, 2014 at 5:30 pm by under Weather

Sunday’s showers and thunderstorms left behind rain totals between just a trace to just more than 0.75″. It’s not nearly enough to put a dent on our drought. Rain totals remain more than 5 inches behind normal for the year at Camp Mabry in Austin.

4-6 Rain totals

Here are more totals from the LCRA Hydromet.

LCRA – Rainfall Summary

​Units in inches

This information comes from LCRA’s network of remote gauges. Most of the gauges have no public access.

 Buchanan

Location 1 Hour 3 Hour 6 Hour 24 Hour Since Midnight
Bangs 6 W 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.12 0.12
Blanket 4 S 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.11 0.11
Brady 11 E 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.05 0.05
Brady Creek at Brady 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.03 0.03
Brownwood 10 SSW 0.00 0.01 0.02 0.19 0.19
Brownwood 4 SE 0.00 0.00 0.04 0.18 0.18
Buchanan Dam 1 ENE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.05 0.05
Burkett 9 S 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.03 0.03
Burnet 5 NNW 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.41 0.41
Cherokee 10 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.01
Cherokee 2 NNW 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01
Cherokee 4 E 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.02
Cherokee 6 WSW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01
Cherokee 8 NNE 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.05 0.05
Cherokee Creek near Bend 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.04 0.04
Clyde 6 S 0.00 0.01 0.05 0.08 0.08
Colorado River at Bend 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.03 0.03
Colorado River at Winchell 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.07 0.07
Colorado River near Goldthwaite 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.03
Colorado River near San Saba 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.09 0.09
Cross Plains 6 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.06 0.43 0.43
Eden 3 S 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Eldorado 2 E 0.09 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.10
Fort McKavett 6 NW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Gouldbusk 4 N 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Lake Buchanan at Cedar Point 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.10 0.10
Lampasas 10 WSW 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.09 0.09
Lampasas 11 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.21 0.21
Lampasas 13 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.12 0.12
Lawn 5 E 0.00 0.00 0.11 0.21 0.21
Lohn 3 WSW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Lometa 2 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.04 0.10 0.10
Mason 13 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Mason 15 NNE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.02
May 1 N 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Melvin 2 S 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Menard 11 NE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Menard 14 E 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Millersview 7 WSW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01
Mullin 5 NE 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.05 0.04
Pecan Bayou at Hwy 279 0.02 0.02 0.05 0.06 0.06
Pecan Bayou near Mullin 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.09 0.09
Richland Springs 11 N 0.00 0.01 0.02 0.07 0.07
Richland Springs 6 NE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.13 0.13
Richland Springs 6 WNW 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.09 0.09
Richland Springs 7 S 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.14 0.14
Rochelle 5 NNW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.05 0.05
San Saba 15 ESE 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.07 0.07
San Saba 15 SW 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.08 0.08
San Saba 6 S 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.02 0.02
San Saba 8 ESE 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.06 0.06
San Saba 8 W 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.34 0.34
San Saba River at Menard 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
San Saba River at San Saba 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.01
San Saba River near Brady 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Sonora 17 ENE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Tow 10 ESE 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01
Tow 10 NNW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.01
Tow 11 ENE 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.04 0.04
Tow 11 N 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.11 0.11
Tow 5 SSW 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.17 0.17
Tow 9 NNE 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.21 0.21

(more…)


Storms over S. Texas trigger unusual atmospheric phenomenon

April 6th, 2014 at 9:35 am by under Weather

Storms several days ago south of Central Texas triggered an incredible – and very unusual – phenomenon in the atmosphere above us.

An explosively-intensifying thunderstorm overshot the tropopause, the boundary of warmer air nearly 50,000 feet high, sending cloud tops well into the stratosphere.

The penetration of the thunderstorm top into the typically “weather-free” stratosphere/mesosphere was akin to letting one drop of water drip onto a quiet swimming pool more than 160,000 feet above the ground.

Check out the technical article below (and the incredible photos of the “ripple effect”), courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison meteorology department:

Convectively-generated mesospheric airglow waves over Texas

April 4th, 2014

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

AWIPS images of 4-km resolution GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR channel images with overlays of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and surface frontal positions (above; click image to play animation) showed the explosive development of a thunderstorm just ahead of a cold frontal boundary that was moving southeastward across southern Texas during the overnight hours on 04 April 2014 (06 UTC surface analysis). This relatively small thunderstorm was very active in terms of lightning production, and eventually produced hail of 1.0 to 1.75 inches in diameter and damaging winds (SPC storm reports) as it approached the coast of Texas. Cloud-top IR temperatures were as cold as -75º C on the GOES-13 images.

A 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image at 08:41 UTC or 3:41 AM local time (below)exhibited cloud-top IR brightness temperatures as cold as -79º C. Overlays on the IR image include cloud-to-ground lightning strikes around the time of the IR image, along with the eventual reports of hail that this storm produced about an hour later. South of the thunderstorm, the banded signatre of a pre-frontal lower-tropospheric undular bore could also be seen across deep south Texas.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and hail reportsPOES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and hail reports

A comparison of 1-km resolution Suomi NPP 11.45 µm IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images at 08:05 UTC or 3:05 AM local time (below) showed an “enhanced-V” signature associated with the thunderstorm, with very cold IR brightness temperatures of -86º C at the vertex of the enhanced-V. The Day/Night Band (DNB) image also showed a number of very bright “streaks” near McMullen, Texas (station identifier KNMT), a signature of portions of the cloud which were illuminated by intense lightning activity. The blurred signatures of bright city lights could even be seen through the clouds. Also, note on the DNB image the presence of curved bands off the Texas coast, over the Gulf of Mexico: what could those be?

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with overlays of positive and negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikesSuomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with overlays of positive and negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.A larger-scale view of the VIIRS IR and Day/Night Band images (below) revealed a remarkably large pattern of concentric mesospheric airglow waves (reference) propagating radially outward away from the region where the thunderstorm had explosively developed and penetrated the tropopause about an hour earlier.
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Llano NOAA Weather Radio Transmitter Temporarily Out of Service

April 5th, 2014 at 10:20 pm by under Weather

 

BLANK

 

000
NOUS44 KEWX 051551
PNSEWX
TXZ171>173-183>194-202>209-217>225-228-061600-

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN/SAN ANTONIO TX
1051 AM CDT SAT APR 5 2014

…LLANO NOAA WEATHER RADIO TRANSMITTER WWF-91 REMAINS OFF THE AIR…

THE LLANO NOAA WEATHER RADIO TRANSMITTER WWF-91 WHICH OPERATES ON
162.425 MHZ IS CURRENTLY OFF THE AIR. THE TRANSMITTER AND
EQUIPMENT WAS DAMAGED FROM A RECENT LIGHTNING STRIKE. THE
TRANSMITTER AND WEATHER RADIO BROADCAST WILL BE OFF THE AIR UNTIL
REPAIRS CAN BE MADE. DUE TO THE HEIGHT OF THE TOWER…SPECIALLY TRAINED
TECHNICIANS ARE HAVING TO BE BROUGHT IN. THE TRANSMITTER SHOULD
BE BACK UP BY THE END NEXT WEEK.

RESIDENTS MAY BE ABLE TO RECEIVE BROADCASTS FROM NEARBY TRANSMITTERS
IN AUSTIN 162.400 MHZ…KERRVILLE 162.450 MHZ…AND SAN SABA
162.525 MHZ OR GO DIRECTLY TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
WEBPAGE AT WWW.WEATHER.GOV/AUSTIN

$$


Signs of an underground ocean found on Saturn

April 5th, 2014 at 9:24 am by under Weather
Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Discovery News

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Discovery News

The article below is courtesy of Discovery News:

Gravity measurements made with the Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft indicate the small moon Enceladus has an ocean sandwiched between its rocky core and icy shell, a finding that raises the prospects of a niche for life beyond Earth.

The Cassini data shows the body of water, which is in the moon’s southern hemisphere, must be as large or larger than Lake Superior and sitting on top of the moon’s rocky core at a depth of about 31 miles.

“The ocean may extend halfway or more toward the equator in every direction,” said planetary scientist David Stevenson, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

ANALYSIS: Could Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Nurture Alien Life?

Scientists infer the ocean is salty because water plumes shooting out of cracks in Enceladus’ southern pole and sampled by Cassini contain salts, as well as organic molecules. That would happen if minerals from underlying rock were leaching into water, a chemistry that bodes well for the development and evolution of life.

“It was not a surprise to find a water reservoir certainly, because we knew that there are plumes, there is liquid water,” said planetary scientist Luciano Iess with the Sapienza University of Rome.

“There have been clues all along,” added Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, senior scientist with the Tucson, Ariz.-based Planetary Science Institute.

“But until you actually get this gravity data, it’s still kind of a circumstantial evidence-story. This is proof of the pudding,” Hansen-Koharcheck told Discovery News.

ANALYSIS: Saturn’s Tidal Tugs Energize Enceladus’ Icy Plumes

The measurements were painstakingly taken as Cassini flew close to Enceladus three times between 2010 and 2012. Two flybys were over the moon’s south pole, at distances of 65 miles and 44 miles above the surface. One flyby was 31 miles above the North Pole.

(more…)


April bird forecast

April 4th, 2014 at 4:20 pm by under Weather

What to watch for in April: Yellow fellows

Here’s the Central Texas bird forecast for the month, courtesy of Travis 
Audubon. Learn more about Central Texas birds and bird-related events for all ages at travisaudubon.org or by calling 512-300-BIRD. Travis Audubon is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @TravisAudubon and give us a like at www.facebook.com/travisaudubon.

Nashville Warbler photo by Bill Majoros via Creative Commons

Nashville Warbler photo by Bill Majoros via Creative Commons

Warbler time
Nashville Warblers are among several bright warblers who are coming through now. These warblers are of medium size, with gray heads and white rings around their eyes and bright yellow throats, breasts and bellies. These birds eat insects almost exclusively, picking them off the tips of branches and out of flower tassels, according to All About Birds. Funny thing: They don’t actually breed anywhere near Nashville, Tenn., but were merely spotted there first in 1811.
Green Heron photo by Travis Audubon volunteer Jane Tillman

Green Heron photo by Travis Audubon volunteer Jane Tillman

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron photo by Travis Audubon volunteer Jane Tillman

Herons here

Green Herons and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are arriving to nest close to retention ponds and creeks in Central Texas. Now’s the time to start watching for these wading birds along Lady Bird Lake as well. Green Herons show up at the Waller Creek bridge, and Yellow-crowneds can be seen on the south side of the lake in shallow inlets. Green Herons are small stocky birds with dark green backs and chestnut brown chests; Yellow-crowneds are more slender and have gray bodies and black and white heads with yellow crown stripes.
 

Upcoming events

Monthly Travis Audubon meeting: Purple Martins — The Full Story. April 17, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive, Huffman Hall (off Steck Avenue). Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

Purple Martins are North America’s largest swallow. They are colony nesters, and the populations east of the Rocky Mountains are total dependent on human-made housing for their nest sites. This makes for interesting interactions between humans and the martins. Maybe you have seen the very active and vocal colony at Hornsby Bend. Maybe you are a Purple Martin landlord with your own colony. Maybe you have witnessed the roost spectacle at Highland Mall. If so, you know these birds are amazing. Join us as Andy and Julia Balinsky give us the full story of the Purple Martin’s life, from egg to migrant. The Balinskys have been the stewards of the Hornsby Bend Purple Martin colony since 2003.

Free event at Baker Sanctuary

Join us Saturday, April 19, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the annual Baker Sanctuary Open House at our property at 12308 Lime Creek Road in Leander. Come enjoy this rare glimpse of our beautiful wildlife sanctuary at this fun event! Join guided tours featuring Golden-cheeked Warblers and sanctuary plants, butterflies and bugs. Kids can take part in a variety of activities such as nest box building, bird identification, bird bean bag toss, and making a pine cone bird feeder. Trail snacks will be served during our walks, and a light lunch will be available.

 
Field Trips — Beginners welcome. Check the Travis Audubon website for details.
http://travisaudubon.org/get-outdoors/field-trips
 
Laguna Gloria with Sam Fason
Saturday, April 12, 8:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Beginner’s Bird Walk – Lake Creek Trail
Saturday, April 5, 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Super Tuesday in San Marcos, led by Deb and Lee Wallace
Tuesday, April 8, 6:45 a.m. to noon

Monthly Bird Count at Hornsby Bend
Saturday, April 12, 7 a.m. & 4:00 p.m.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
Sunday, April 13, 7:15 to 11:30 a.m.

Super Tuesday at Buescher and Bastrop State Parks, led by Terry Banks
Tuesday, April 15, 5:45 a.m. to early afternoon

Hornsby Bend Monthly Bird Walk
Saturday, April 19, 7:30 to 11 a.m.

Commons Ford Monthly Walk
Sunday, April 20, 9 a.m. to noon

Super Tuesday at Booty’s Road Park and Rivery Park, led by Ginny and Ray Steelman
Tuesday, April 22, 7 to 11 a.m.

Super Tuesday at Roy Guerrero Park, led by Ken Zaslow
Tuesday, April 29, 7 to 11 a.m.

Compiled by Travis Audubon volunteers Jane Tillman and Raeanne Martinez

Tornado technology innovation born from 1974 tragedy

April 3rd, 2014 at 2:58 pm by under Weather

(By -Climate Central)

Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of one of the most destructive tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. The event, deemed a Super Outbreak, took place over two days and spawned nearly 150 tornadoes across 13 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. The storm left behind millions of dollars in damage and caused 300 deaths and 6,000 injuries. The only outbreak with more tornadoes occurred in late April 2011.

A hand-drawn map by Ted Fujita showing the 1974 Super Outbreak of tornadoes in the U.S.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: National Weather Service, Wilmington

The map above shows the meticulous detail that went into analyzing the 1974 Super Outbreak by Ted Fujita, who devised the Fujita Scale to quantify the strength of tornadoes. Without computers, Fujita had to hand draw each tornado track and width after doing extensive aerial surveys. The National Weather Service’s Wilmington office has a large version well worth looking at if you don’t mind the load time.

RELATED Where are the Tornadoes? Slow Start, but No Guarantees
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As shocking as the geographic scope of the outbreak is the number of intense tornadoes it spawned. Of the 148 tornadoes that touched down, 30 were rated F4 or F5, the two most destructive categories. According to U.S. Tornadoes, the U.S. only sees 7 such tornadoes per year, underscoring just how violent the outbreak was.

There was a small silver lining in the aftermath, outlined in a story by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research’s Bob Henson. During his aerial surveys, Fujita discovered a previously unknown weather phenomenon. Among the wreckage, he noticed not all the damage was consistent with tornado winds, which tend to swirl. Instead, there were areas that were flattened like a rolling pin had gone wild. Further research of this and other similar events found previously unidentified microbursts — intense downward pulses of air that can disrupt air travel in addition to flattening trees and homes — as the culprit.

The results have led to aviation safety improvements. “It’s likely that hundreds of deaths have been avoided thanks to Ted Fujita’s uncommon insight, his exhaustive documentation, and the careful field work carried out by NCAR scientists and their collaborators,” Henson wrote.

Tornado prediction has also dramatically improved. To illustrate some of those advancements, the Storm Prediction Center used observations of conditions that preceded the 1974 storm and ran computer models on Wednesday to see how well they could forecast the outbreak if it happened today. It turns out the models were able to identify conditions that were conducive for tornadoes to develop in a number of locations where twisters did touch down in 1974.

That forecast skill come from decades of technological upgrades since the Super Outbreak, including Doppler radar technology and powerful computers  that can crunch exponentially more calculations than their 1974 brethren. And those upgrades are extremely helpful on a day like Thursday when nearly 52 million people are at risk from severe weather according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Wild Texas Weather Town Hall

April 2nd, 2014 at 3:48 pm by under Weather

I would like to thank all the wonderful folks I met in Sun City Georgetown today for inviting me to be a part of your severe weather “town hall.” It’s great to see a community so pro-active in severe weather preparedness!

A reminder for everyone–severe weather season is here. Now is the time to make sure you are ready. Download our free severe weather guide by clicking here.

Sun City 2 Sun City1 Sun City


NASA measures lightning from space

April 2nd, 2014 at 3:04 pm by under Weather
Sensing Lightning from ISS
acquired December 12, 2013 download large image (4 MB, JPEG, 4256×2832)

Across the atmosphere of Earth, lightning flashes about 50 times per second. That’s 4.3 million times a day and roughly 1.5 billion times a year. Using a new instrument on the International Space Station (ISS), scientists are hoping to observe and dissect at least a few of those lightning bolts every day.

Launched to the ISS in August 2013, the Firestation instrument includes photometers to measure lightning flashes, radio antennas to measure the static (a proxy for the strength of the electrical discharge), and a gamma-ray electron detector. Firestation could observe about 50 lightning strokes per day as it looks for brief bursts of gamma rays that are emitted by some of them.

Gamma radiation is usually associated with exploding stars or nuclear fusion, but scientists have found evidence that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) may occur in the atmosphere as often as 500 times a day. Atmospheric scientists are interested in the processes that trigger lightning within thunderstorms and what kinds of lightning produce gamma rays. TGFs may also be related to the atmospheric phenomena known as red sprites, electrical discharges that extend upward from thunderstorms.

“The fact that TGFs exist at all is amazing,” said Doug Rowland, the principal investigator for Firestation and a space physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “The electron and gamma-ray energies in TGFs are usually the domain of nuclear explosions, solar flares, and supernovas. What a surprise to find them shooting out of the cold upper atmosphere of our own planet.”

The photograph above, snapped by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station on December 12, 2013, shows a white flash of lightning amidst the yellow city lights of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Another astronaut orbiting over Bolivia captured a close-up of a lightning flash beneath a thunderhead on January 9, 2011 (image below).

acquired January 9, 2011 download large image (4 MB, JPEG, 4256×2832)

In a few years, NASA scientists plan to add another lightning sensor to the ISS. The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) was originally designed for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, which was launched in 1997 and is still flying. At the time, the research team from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center built a backup LIS in case of trouble with the main instrument. That spare is still quite functional and is scheduled to be sent up to the space station in 2016.

LIS detects cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning, and it can detect discharges both in daylight and at night. It measures the rate and amount of radiant energy in global lightning strikes. Because the space station flies farther north and south than TRMM, this second LIS instrument will extend lightning measurements beyond the tropics. (more…)