Watch lightning strikes from space on NOAA's cutting-edge new satellite

That can help forecasters determine how fast a storm is forming and becoming more unsafe.

The GOES-16 Goestationary Lightning Mapper gathers lightning data.

A new satellite can capture lightning strikes from space, giving forecasters a better picture of what's happening during a storm.

The first images from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, a new instrument onboard the recently launched GOES-16 satellite, were released Monday.

In addition, the GLM can detect in-cloud lightning, which occurs five to ten minutes before lightning strikes the ground. GOES-16 is now observing the planet from an equatorial view approximately 22,300 miles above the surface of the Earth. The images and video show lightning flashes across the Western Hemisphere over the course of an hour.

This image combines an hour's worth of lightning data obtained on February 14, according to NOAA. The mapper continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, so forecasters know when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more risky.

Rapid increases of lightning flashes are a sign that the storm is intensifying quickly, according to NASA. Scientists have found that sudden jumps in lightning activity can indicate a storm is set to produce severe weather, from large hail and damaging winds to destructive tornadoes.

When combined with radar and other satellite data, this data should help forecasters anticipate heavy rain and issue flood and flash flood warnings sooner. In dry parts of the USA, the satellite can help forecasters and firefighters identify places prone to wildfires if struck by lightning.

The agency, which forecasts weather and monitors the Earth's climate, revealed the first Global Lightning Mapper imagery on March 6, showing what the satellite is capable of.

Pinpointing exactly where and when these unsafe bolts hit the Earth is key for forecasting severe weather outbreaks.

Combining the forces of two GOES-16 instruments, the Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, for cloud imaging and the never-before used lightning mapper - forecasters will be able alert people of developing threats.

GOES-16 is the first of four satellites, part of a $10 billion program, to help improve weather forecasting of incoming weather hazards.

  • Tracy Ferguson