Vaisala Xweather’s Lightning Detection Network Turns 40, Decreasing Lightning-Related Deaths in the U.S.

Vaisala Xweather’s Lightning Detection Network Turns 40, Decreasing Lightning-Related Deaths in the U.S.

(IN BRIEF) Vaisala Xweather is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), which has been instrumental in protecting Americans from lightning hazards. Over the past four decades, lightning-related deaths in the United States have decreased by almost two-thirds, thanks to increased awareness and real-time lightning detection. The NLDN’s accurate and reliable data has enabled meteorologists to improve thunderstorm forecasts, energy companies to protect critical systems, and aviation to minimize disruptions. The NLDN has also significantly reduced downtime and supply chain disruptions caused by lightning. Since its inception in 1983, the NLDN has continuously evolved, reaching complete coverage of the continental United States in 1989 and achieving lightning measurement accuracy down to 100 meters. The network detected nearly 200 million lightning events in the U.S. in 2022. Vaisala Xweather remains committed to advancing lightning safety as thunderstorm trends become increasingly volatile due to climate change.

(PRESS RELEASE) VANTAA, 1-Jun-2023 — /EuropaWire/ — Vaisala (HEL: VAIAS), a global leader in environmental and industrial measurement, announces that Vaisala Xweather, the leader in lightning detection technology, is proud to mark the 40th anniversary of its U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), the world’s most advanced lightning detection network. Since its establishment in 1983, the NLDN has played a crucial role in protecting Americans from lightning hazards, resulting in significant reductions in lightning-related deaths and economic impacts.

Thanks to increased lightning safety awareness, lightning-related fatalities in the United States have dropped by almost two-thirds over the past four decades. Real-time lightning detection from the NLDN has contributed to enhanced safety measures, reduced downtime for electrical grids, utilities, and air transport, and improved forecasting of dangerous thunderstorms.

The NLDN, renowned for its accuracy, reliability, and scientific validation, has provided invaluable lightning data that has revolutionized various industries. Meteorologists have leveraged highly localized insights to enhance thunderstorm forecasts, while energy and infrastructure companies have safeguarded critical power, utility, and communication systems. Additionally, the NLDN has enabled pilots to make informed decisions, ensuring the safety of airline passengers.

“Everyone in the United States benefits from the NLDN, either directly or indirectly. Globally, 80% of all national meteorological agencies, including the National Weather Service, that need lightning data, have chosen to use ours to help people stay safe from one of nature’s most violent forces,” says Ryan Said, Senior Scientist at Vaisala Xweather.

The network’s impact on personal safety is evident, as lightning-related deaths and injuries have significantly decreased over the years. From 1983 to 1998, the average annual lightning-related deaths in the United States stood at 69. However, from 2007 to 2022, this number dropped to 24, reflecting a remarkable decrease of nearly 70 percent.

The NLDN has also delivered substantial societal and economic benefits. Lightning strikes often result in electrical grid outages and disruptions in aviation operations. With the NLDN’s early warning capabilities, downtime and supply chain disruptions caused by lightning have been significantly reduced, ensuring operational continuity and mitigating economic losses.

“Lightning strikes aren’t all the same – some lightning is more likely to cause significant damage to buildings, towers, and wind turbines. Lightning can even start wildfires. We can provide people with near real-time insight on whether a lightning strike merits further investigation mere minutes after the flash and boom,” continues Said.

On June 1, 1983, the NLDN detected its first cloud-to-ground lightning strike, marking the beginning of its extraordinary journey. In 1989, the network achieved complete coverage of the continental United States, making it the first lightning detection network to achieve such extensive reach. Continuous innovation and development have enabled the NLDN to achieve lightning measurement accuracy down to 100 meters anywhere within the continental United States.

In 2022 alone, the NLDN detected nearly 200 million lightning events across the United States. To further enhance lightning safety, the NLDN introduced a groundbreaking feature in 2022 known as Strike Damage Potential. This feature identifies unique strike points on the ground, facilitating the assessment of potential damage caused by lightning flashes.

As climate change intensifies, experts from Vaisala Xweather anticipate increased variability in thunderstorm trends in the United States and worldwide. Through ongoing scientific discoveries and collaboration, Vaisala Xweather remains committed to advancing lightning safety and protecting communities from the hazards of lightning strikes.

“Climate change makes lightning activity more unpredictable. We have already detected an increase in lightning close to the North Pole since we started keeping records of Arctic lightning in 2012. Because of the weather conditions that far north, lightning should be quite rare near the Pole. In the U.S., we also saw an unusual lack of thunderstorms that likely led to the Mississippi River drying out last year,” Said concludes.

More information for the media:

Ryan Said, Senior Scientist, Vaisala Xweather

Katri Koponen, Communications Manager, Vaisala
Tel. +358 50 586 0262

Media kit with photos

Vaisala Xweather media kit

Explore the Vaisala Xweather Annual Lightning Report 2022

About Vaisala
Vaisala is a global leader in weather, environmental, and industrial measurements. Building on over 85 years of experience, Vaisala provides observations for a better world, with space-proof technology even exploring Mars and beyond. We are a reliable partner for customers around the world, offering a comprehensive range of innovative observation and measurement products and services. Headquartered in Finland, Vaisala employs over 2,000 professionals worldwide and is listed on the Nasdaq Helsinki stock exchange.

Vaisala Xweather combines Vaisala’s technology with revolutionary weather modelling and data. Committed to uniting the world to solve the environment, Xweather optimizes and protects businesses with its world-leading sensor-enhanced data and solutions-as-a-service for sustainable resiliency. Whether it is overcoming local challenges or creating the next groundbreaking innovation, Vaisala Xweather makes sense of the weather.


Fact box info:

  • 1983: The first cloud-to-ground lightning was detected by the NLDN in Pennsylvania.
  • 1989: The network is expanded to cover the entire continental USA.
  • 1992: Magnetic Direction Finding (MDF) and Time of Arrival (TOA) technology were combined in one sensor, improving the NLDN’s performance and lightning location accuracy.
  • 1998: The Canadian Lightning Detection Network (CLDN), which is owned by Environment Canada, was integrated with the NLDN allowing meteorologists to track lightning and storm activity across country borders and on a continental scale.
  • 2013: New sensor technology improved the accuracy of the lightning location detection by 50% from about 300 meters to 100 meters.
  • 2021: Strike Damage Potential increased the accuracy of detection for flashes, strokes and pulses, helping to assess the potential damage of each individual stroke of lightning.

SOURCE: Vaisala



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