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Enter your "Place, State", US Zip Code or ICAO:  
Birmingham, Alabama, United States (35201)  Lat: 33.52N, Lon: 86.8W
Wx Zone: ALZ025 FIPS/SAME: 01073
StrikeStarUS LDN LightningMaps LDN Probability Alabama TRAC Report WASP Composite FAQ Other
Lightning Detector FAQ:

Q:

How is lightning detected?

A:

The lightning detector detects the low frequency radio signals produced by lightning's electrical discharge. This signal is the crackling you hear on an AM radio when thunderstorms are nearby. These signals travel for hundreds of miles and are detected by the lightning detector's antenna.

Q:

How does the lightning detector know where the lightning is?

A:

The lightning detector uses a direction-finding antenna to determine the direction the lightning signal came from. The lightning detector's receiver looks at the signal strength to calculate an approximate distance for the lightning strike. There is additional processing done in software to reduce the effect of strike to strike magnitude variations. Once the lightning detector software knows the direction and distance of the strike it plots it on the map.

Q:

There is widespread thunderstorm activity today, why does your map only show lightning around the center of the map?

A:

Due to the limitations of a single sensor lightning detector system, the nearby storms mask out the more distant storms.  The lightning detector can not "see" a thunderstorm that is positioned behind another thunderstorm in relationship to the lightning detector's receiving antenna.  If a thunderstorm is sitting on top of lightning detector's receiving antenna, strikes will be randomly displayed around the center of the map.

Q:

A thunderstorm is forming near me.  I have seen a couple of  lightning flashes.  Why has the detection not plotted the strike on the map?

A:

There are a couple of causes for this.  First, it takes a few seconds for the lightning detection software to process the lightning strike.  Depending on how may storms are in progress, the software may be very busy processing a very large number of different lightning strikes.  The software will not usually display a single strike if the strike rate is very low (example: the strike rate is less than one strike per five minute interval).  Second, the display map is only redraw every five minutes.  Always check the creation date and time at the bottom right corner of the map to make sure the displayed data is current.

Q:

I would like to learn more about personal lightning safety, where can I find out more?

A:

I would recommend visiting http://www.lightningsafety.com.  You may also contact your local Emergency Management Office or the National Weather Service.


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