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  • NASA Scientists Report Insights into Rainfall

Photonics Spectra
Jul 1998
Thanks to recently released images taken from a NASA/ Japan Space Agency spacecraft's lightning image sensor, scientists are gaining new insights into rainfall-producing cloud systems over the tropics.

Sensors aboard a NASA satellite captured this image of Atlanta. Colors on the map signify heat and pollution.

Recent images reveal that 98 percent of lightning occurs over land and little over the oceans. NASA scientists attribute this phenomenon to enhanced convection: the continual overturning of the atmosphere that occurs as water, evaporated from the Earth's surface, carries excess heat energy into the upper atmosphere. The small lightning sensor imaged both cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud lightning.

NASA's work could lead to a space-based lightning mapper that could deliver day and night information to a forecaster within 30 seconds of each lightning strike.

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