Trial runs and games

This week we’ve got two groups of local students visiting to ‘test’ our exhibit (well, the bits of it which have been finished!). One group came yesterday morning and we have another visit this afternoon. We showed some of them the things we’re presenting and had some good chats about their thoughts on storms and volcanoes. I managed to convince one of my colleagues to demonstrate the special lightning survival pose which was not only a useful tip for the visitors but also pretty funny. If you come along to the exhibition it could be your challenge to make someone show you it.

The picture is a game which Graeme devised for the students, where they had to try to guess the number of lightning strokes in the image. These storms all happened last Friday afternoon and Graeme gave the clue that the answer fell between 1000 and 2000… any guesses?

Other uses of ATDnet data - helicopters

Our exhibit relates partly to the use of our lightning detection network (ATDnet) to detect volcanic lightning. However, it is of course able to detect lightning from storms and is an operational system used by an incredibly wide variety of people. I’m always pleased to hear of people using ATDnet data for their research and was excited to find out that one of my Met Office colleagues, Jonathan Wilkinson, has been using ATDnet records of lightning strokes to verify reports of helicopter triggered lightning.

Jonathan and his team have found a number of helicopters which have reported lightning over the North Sea in the winter (October-April) where it was not expected or otherwise observed. It is thought that the presence of the helicopter itself can trigger the strike. These lightning strikes have safety and financial implications. Radar and ATDnet data have been used along with other information to produce an improved algorithm to model these conditions, to better predict when and where these lightning strikes might occur.

For more details, the findings have been documented in a paper:

Wilkinson, J. M., Wells, H., Field, P. R. and Agnew, P. (2012), Investigation and prediction of helicopter-triggered lightning over the North Sea. Met. Apps. doi: 10.1002/met.1314