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Look OUT for Lightning!

Each year, on average, lightning kills about eighty-five Americans and injures many more. Lightning also destroys homes, sparks massive forest fires, and ruins electrical and communications systems, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Detecting and tracking lightning help save property, and, most importantly, human lives.

Since the 1970s, meteorologists have used the National Lightning Detection Network to locate and track thunderstorms. Lightning detection images show where lightning has struck the ground, allowing meteorologists to determine where the most severe storm activity is.

Throughout the United States, a system of magnetic sensors and computers form the National Lightning Detection Network. When lightning strikes the ground, the sensors detect the massive electrical discharge. Data from the nearest sensors is combined to locate the exact strike location. Via computer networks, the strikes are recorded on national maps for meteorologists to track thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms and lightning occur most commonly in moist warm climates. On average, in the United States, Central Florida sees the most lightning and the Pacific Northwest sees the least. Central Florida's hot and humid air offers prime conditions for thunderstorm formation, and, therefore, lightning.

On lightning detection images, negative and positive lightning strikes appear differently. Negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes appear on the images as green stars. Positive strikes appear as pink triangles.

 
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