Panama Implements Advanced Severe Weather Monitoring and Early Warning Technology from Earth Networks

  • Sep 09, 2015

Innovative approach using lightning sensors and automated alerting developed by U.S. tech firm provides Central American country with modern weather infrastructure for the first time

Germantown, MD, September 9, 2015 – In Panama, heavy rains can cause widespread flooding and trigger landslides that claim lives, impact thousands, and destroy homes and businesses. Other forms of severe weather, including lightning, high winds and heavy rains, can threaten lives and critical infrastructure. To help provide earlier insight into these devastating events, a new collaboration between U.S. technology firm Earth Networks and the Hydrometeorology Department of Empresa de Transmisión Elétrica, S.A (ETESA), the acting national weather agency in Panama, is bringing advanced weather monitoring and severe weather alerts to Central America for the first time.

The early warning system includes a combination of sensors, patented technology and desktop user tools. To track approaching severe weather, the system gathers real-time information about hyperlocal weather conditions and lightning activity from internet-connected sensors deployed throughout Panama. Government officials can use StreamerRT, a computer weather visualization tool, to view weather activity across the region.

Automated alerting is made possible by lightning sensors that track both cloud-to-ground, and importantly, in-cloud lightning, which often serves as a precursor to severe weather. When total lightning activity reaches a predetermined threshold, Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts (DTAs) are issued automatically to authorities.

“We are confident that the new early warning system will help our meteorologists stay informed and alerted to potentially dangerous weather events, including heavy rains, high winds, and thunderstorms, both in and around Panama,” says Edilberto Esquivel, Director of Hydrometeorology, ETESA and Permanent WMO Representative for Panama. “We chose to work with Earth Networks as a result of the company’s advanced weather tracking and alerting technology, superior lightning detection capabilities, and success in deploying sensors in more than 75 countries around the world.”

Over the past five years, similar early warning systems have been successfully deployed by Earth Networks in both developed and emerging countries on six continents. The system in Panama is the first to be installed within Central America.

The lightning sensors deployed in Panama are part of the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network, the world’s largest network for tracking cloud-to-ground and in-cloud lightning. Prior to this new technology, ETESA officials had to rely on lower-resolution lightning data from sensors that were incapable of detecting in-cloud lightning and could not provide insight into approaching severe weather or information that could be used to alert government personnel.

“We are pleased and honored to work with ETESA to help protect lives and livelihoods throughout Panama,” says Bob Marshall, CEO, Earth Networks. “The need for advanced weather tracking and alerting is particularly acute in countries with tropical climates and diverse typographies such as Panama, where severe weather can result in dangerous flash floods and landslides. After just a few weeks’ time, Panama is now in the position of having state-of-the-art weather infrastructure, alerts and technology tools.”

Earth Networks deployed the system for use by Panama’s state electric transmission company, ETESA (Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica S.A.). The hydromet division of ETESA serves as the national weather authority for Panama.

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