Lightning Research at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center

TitleLightning Research at NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2022
AuthorsBateman, M
Conference NameHamSCI Workshop 2022
Date Published03/2022
Conference LocationHuntsville, AL

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) are home to one of the top lightning research groups in the world. We study basic physics of the lightning process, its relationship to storm severity, and help with lightning protection for our nation's space program. In addition to basic and applied science, we also design and build cutting-edge instrumentation that allows us to make unique measurements to study thunderstorms. We now have 2 Geostationary Lightning Mappers (GLMs) in orbit, on both GOES-16 (East) and GOES-17 (West). This gives us lightning mapper coverage over nearly half the Earth. The GLMs were developed here in Huntsville; they add lightning information to the GOES satellite photo loop images and are becoming essential in weather forecasting and warning. We also have the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) aboard the ISS, and it has been in orbit now for over 5 years. Of particular interest to hams is the RF spectrum of lightning. A lightning channel can be thought of as a 10-km long antenna, which obviously has a fundamental frequency in the ELF. But lightning radiates on many frequencies with large bandwidth. A review of the published literature on lightning spectra shows that the upper end of measured spectra has always been limited by instrumentation. With modern, wide-bandwidth A/D circuitry, there may be much to learn in the UHF and microwave bands. This is an area where hams could certainly help out.

Refereed DesignationNon-Refereed