Severe and extreme weather is a major natural hazard all over the world, often resulting in major natural disasters such as hail storms, tornados, wind storms, flash floods, forest fires and lightning damages. While precipitation, wind, hail, tornados, turbulence, etc. can only be observed at close distances, lightning activity in these damaging storms can be monitored at all spatial scales, from local (using very high frequency [VHF] sensors), to regional (using very low frequency [VLF] sensors), and even global scales (using extremely low frequency [ELF] sensors). Using sensors that detect the radio waves emitted by each lightning discharge, it is now possible to observe and track continuously distant thunderstorms using ground networks of sensors. In addition to the number of lightning discharges, these sensors can also provide information on lightning characteristics such as the ratio between intra-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning, the polarity of the lightning discharge, peak currents, charge removal, etc. It has been shown that changes in some of these lightning characteristics during thunderstorms are often related to changes in the severity of the storms. In this paper different lightning observing systems are described, and a few examples are provided showing how lightning may be used to monitor storm hazards around the globe, while also providing the possibility of supplying short term forecasts, called nowcasting.
- Severe weather