Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Post for Weather Geeks

Especially lightning geeks. 

For some time, I've been aware that there's a group of radio experimenters who listen to low frequency signals for the strange sounds the atmosphere makes.  They call the things they hear "sferics", which at least sounds like it could be a shortened form of "atmospherics".  There are things that sound like whistles, things that sound like bird chirps, and other odd sounds produced by natural phenomena. 

This morning, while listening to the sound of south pole auroras on Jupiter on, conversation turned to what the auroras on Earth sound like and then to the sferics hobbyists.  That led to this:
What you're seeing here is the last hour's worth of lightning strikes over the CONUS (and surrounding areas) as of about 5PM EDT. Color code is that the hottest color, red, is the most recent while the yellower fading to dark orange spots are older. is the top level and moving the map around rapidly changes the URL.  You can zoom in and out, or watch lightning strikes all over the world.  The claimed delay from the strike until you see it has been between 2 and 3 seconds all day. 

The raw data comes from  Unlike Lightning Maps, sferics will only plot lightning if it's the open window on your desktop.  Lightning Maps keeps that last hour's worth of data compiling if you look away.  And where does that data come from?  A completely volunteer network of interested folks.  I can't say they're all hobbyists, but I believe many are.  If you contribute data, you can download data.  The amount you can do, therefore, depends on your level of interest. 

Just a pretty cool example of what some dedicated hobbyists can do these days.


  1. We had lightning detection systems at Sea Launch, both at home port, and on the launch platform. They were basically an e-field probe, and an h-field probe that fed some encapsulated electronics, and fed the data via a serial connection to a PC running the disply/logging software.

    The one on the launch platform was mounted on one corner of the helipad, and was constantly getting set off whenever the helicopter came in for a landing.

    Seems the blade tips on the composite main rotor would generate quite a large static charge, and it was enough to trip the electronics connected to the e-field probe.

  2. As a fellow wx geek, I like the map. Back in the old days (80s-90s) when we were in the field and away from the comforts of home we would use a little am radio tuned low and not near any broadcast stations, any lightning within 15 miles would cause the radio to pop and give us a heads-up that we had boomers on the horizon. I recently found another good wx geek site,

    God Bless you and yours

    MSG Grumpy

    1. Bet you heard them farther than 15 miles, too! That's really not that different from what the network is doing, just their stations have directional antennas that can figure which direction the storm is by time of arrival of the noise.

      Thanks and God Bless you and yours, too!

  3. Old analog tv channel 2 was used by rural folks to give a warning for tornadoes. The screen would hop around when a twister was getting close.