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For more information contact:

Elvia H. Thompson
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-1696)

Rob Gutro
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
(Phone: 301/286-4044)

Steve Roy
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
(Phone: 256/544-0034)

Bruce Buckingham
NASA Kennedy Space Center
(Phone: 321/861-7642)

Stephanie Kenitzer
American Meteorological Society
(Phone: 425/432-2192)

Curtis Carey
National Weather Service
(Phone: 301/713-0622 x169)

Lori Stiles
University of Arizona
(Phone: 520/626-4402)

Marshall Space Flight Center World Lightning Maps

New Marshall Space Flight Center Lightning Animations

Lightning Really Does Strike More Than Twice

National Weather Service Lightning Safety

Kennedy Space Center Lightning and the Space Program


Viewable Images


Imaging Sensor (LIS) Science Team
Data from space-based optical sensors reveal the uneven distribution of worldwide lightning strikes, with color variations indicating the average annual number of lightning flashes per square kilometer. The map includes data obtained from April 1995 to February 2003 from NASA's Optical Transient Detector; and from January 1998 to February 2003 from NASA's Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS). CREDIT: NASA MSFC Lightning


This animation depicts 8 years of high resolution data showing lightning strikes around the world. The lightning data is from July 1995 through December 2002. The yellow, orange and red areas indicate increasing amounts of lightning as the colors move from yellow to red. CREDIT: NASA/MSFC


Within Valine and Krider's study sample of 386 flashes of lightning, each cloud-to-ground flash struck the ground in 1.45 places, increasing the chance of being struck by 45%. CREDIT: Photograph by M. Garay


There are more than 2,000 thunderstorms taking place around the world at any given instant. This view was taken aboard the space shuttle. Scientists have a variety of tools for studying lightning including satellites, weather balloons, airplanes, and computer models. Better lightning predictions could improve public safety and benefit construction companies, amusement parks and utilities. CREDIT: NASA/MSFC


This is a list of lightning casualties across the contiguous United States between 1959 and 1994. It was created by the National Weather Service from lightning reports on fatalities, injuries and damages across the United States over that time period. Florida stands out as the state with the most fatalities at 1,523 over the 35 year period. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York and Texas are the states with the next largest numbers of fatalities. Alaska and Hawaii reported no lightning-related deaths over that period. CREDIT: National Weather Service

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June 19, 2003 - (date of web publication)



chart of worldwide lightning strikes

Image 1


The arrival of summer brings increased chances of thunderstorms and dangerous lightning. NASA marks National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 22-29, by highlighting the unique contributions agency lightning research makes to climate studies, severe storm detection and prediction.

Lightning is dangerous, so improving our understanding of it and its role in weather and climate is important. NASA researchers at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Ala., created lightning maps that show where and how much lightning strikes worldwide. This data is important to climatologists, because lightning indicates the location of large storms that release latent heat; the "fuel supply" that helps drive the Earth's climate "engine."


This animation depicts 8 years of high resolution data showing lightning strikes around the world. The lightning data is from July 1995 through December 2002.

Image 2

Click on image for animation (30 MB)

Steven Goodman, Dennis Boccippio, Richard Blakeslee, Hugh Christian, and William Koshak from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., helped create a high-resolution world map showing the frequency of lightning strikes. The lightning science team recently presented the animated lightning maps and 11 technical papers at the 12th International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity, Versailles, France.

Goodman said the global lightning maps are "animated maps of lightning activity worldwide, and have just been updated to include eight years of data." The maps are color coded to indicate concentrations of lightning strikes. Each frame represents average lightning activity on each day of the year. These data, compiled from space-based optical sensors, reveal the uneven distribution of worldwide lightning strikes, and the maps provide a unique look at climate information. They also show where lightning activity increased and decreased during the recent El Nino event.


image of lightning striking the ground from forked lightning strikes

Image 3


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service's regional forecast offices in Alabama have been using NASA's North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array since November 2001. The data have helped to characterize thunderstorm initiation, identify weakening and strengthening storms by the change in the rate of flashes, and evaluate the trend of the flash rate to improve severe storm detection and lead-time. Understanding lightning has the potential to improve severe storm warning lead-time by up to 50 percent and decrease the false alarm rate for non-tornado producing storms.

NASA's lightning research is also being applied to aviation safety. NASA technology is helping aviators avoid turbulence, over offshore areas, by using surface lightning measurements and combining them with satellite lightning data and other measurements.

According to the National Weather Service, lightning kills an average of 73 people annually in the United States. Lightning kills more people than hurricanes or tornadoes. William Valine and Phillip Krider, two NASA-funded scientists from the University of Arizona, discovered lightning frequently strikes the ground in two or more places. This means the risk of being struck by lightning is 45 percent higher than previously thought.


view from the space shuttle of lightning taking place on the Earth

Image 4

Click on image for animation (16 MB)

NASA's Earth Science Enterprise, which funds lightning research, is dedicated to understanding the Earth as an integrated system and applying Earth System Science to improve prediction of climate, weather and natural hazards using the unique vantage point of space.

Lightning Fatalities, Injuries and Damage By State 1959-1994 (Source: National Weather Service)

Alabama 296
Alaska NA
Arizona 164
Arkansas 355
California 79


Connecticut 88
Delaware 42
Florida 1523
Georgia 410
Hawaii NA
Idaho 87
Illinois 360
Indiana 238
Iowa 227
Kansas 234
Kentucky 278
Louisiana 347
Maine 126
Maryland 250
Massachusetts 355
Michigan 732
Minnesota 169
Mississippi 295
Missouri 176
Montana 64
Nebraska 111
Nevada 18
New Hampshire 76
New Jersey 185
New Mexico 249
New York 577
North Carolina 629
North Dakota 35
Ohio 545
Oklahoma 331
Oregon 26
Pennsylvania 644
Rhode Island 49
South Carolina 306
South Dakota 79
Tennessee 473
Texas 498
Utah 116
Vermont 30
Virginia 235
Washington 40
West Virginia 108
Wisconsin 241
Wyoming 104


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