Lightning FAQ: What are lightning strike maps?
Lightning strike maps are images that display the locations where cloud-to-ground lightning strikes have occured.
Today, private companies and open-source groups operate networks of special sensors that can detect radio waves produced by lightning. These radio waves are used to calculate how far away a strike is in relation to the sensor. The data collected by multiple sensors allows the location of strikes to be calculated via triangulation. This data is used to create detailed maps of lightning strikes on a real-time basis. Ground strike points on the maps are marked with dots, plus signs (for positive-flash strikes), or minus signs (for negative-flash strikes).
Although comprehensive access to lightning data is generally fee-based, there are many free lightning data sources on the internet, many of them real-time (or slightly delayed).
Free online data sources
Fee-based services that include lightning data
(The listing of these services are neither paid nor constitute an official endorsement)
- Radarscope: Radarscope is a mobile app that has an option for lightning data to be added on. At last report, the app cost $9.95 to buy (one time charge), with the lightning data an additional $9.95 per year. I have heard good reviews of this app, but have never used the lightning data option myself since I currently operate WxWorx.
- Baron/XM WxWorx (Mobile Threat Net): I have been using the WxWorx system continuously since 2004. The median-level and top-level plans include realtime lightning data. WxWorx is only an option for the most serious of storm storm observers due to its cost. I use it because it is satellite-based and therefore always works no matter where I am - I do not lose data if I don't have a cellular signal.
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