One day from GOES-R Launch: 5 Key Differences between GOES-R and Earth Networks Total Lightning Network

  • Nov 18, 2016

There is a lot of buzz around NASA and NOAA’s GOES-R satellite launching tomorrow evening, but how different is it from other lightning networks? Since we’ll be seeing three more GOES satellites (S/T/U) by 2036, understanding their capabilities is important for everyone in the weather and lightning monitoring industry. While GOES-R is the first lightning mapper to ever be flown into space, it will serve more as a complementary service to other advanced lightning networks on the ground, like Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN).


Here are five key differences between GOES-R and ENTLN:

1. Location accuracy

Once launched, GOES-R will have a lightning detection location accuracy of 8KM (just shy of 5 miles). ENTLN is more precise with an accuracy of up to 100M. This difference is critical for accurate advanced warnings and associated commercial applications. For example, our Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts (DTAs) need that 100M location accuracy in order to warn the correct areas of incoming severe weather—ranging from cloud-to-ground (CG) strikes to hail, wind and rain.

2. Detection capabilities

GOES-R and ENTLN can both detect total lightning, or the combination of cloud-to-ground (CG) and incloud (IC) lightning strikes. The ability to discern between IC and CG is critical for insurance and utility companies. There is a difference between the two in regards to detection efficiency. Earth Networks is capable of a higher detection efficiency than GOES-R; 0->95% and 0-90% respectively.

3. Speed

Since GOES-R will be orbiting 22,240 miles from Earth, it will take about 30 seconds for weather and lightning information and visualizations to travel down to the antenna on Earth. Since ENTLN is on the ground, it is able to provide information in real-time to the second.

4. Amplitude

The amplitude of a strike is a measurement of how strong the strike is. ENTLN measures amplitude for both IC and CG strikes from the ground. If a large flash occurs behind dense cloud coverage, the satellite may not be able to detect it from space.

5. GOES-R Coverage

The last main difference between the GOES-R and ENTLN is in how differently they cover the world. GOES-R has uniform coverage throughout the western hemisphere, even in remote areas. ENTLN’s coverage depends on the density and distribution of the lightning sensor network with sensors distributed all across the globe.

The GOES-R launch is exciting for other lightning networks and weather providers, as it can also be used as a source for comparison. NASA and NOAA’s new satellite and ENTLN should both be utilized when it comes to understanding lightning, preparing for storms and forecasting weather, as together, they should lend to 100% lightning detection worldwide!