Vaisala has been operating the NLDN for more than 23 years, manufacturing lightning detection equipment for 35 years and remains at the forefront of the lightning industry around the world. Vaisala's NLDN is the most scientifically accurate and reliable lightning information system, monitoring lightning activity across the continental United States, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The NLDN locates cloud-to-ground lightning strikes to within 200 meters. Vaisala's dedicated data service has an uptime of 99.99% and it delivers the data within seconds of it being detected.
The NWS will also continue its Vaisala Global Lightning Dataset GLD360TM contract with Vaisala. The Vaisala GLD360TM is a service that provides real-time lightning data for accurate, early detection and tracking of severe weather. The GLD360TM data is generated by a Vaisala-owned and operated network that provides uniform coverage with high detection efficiency over the entire world, complementing the continental lightning data provided by the NLDN. The Vaisala GLD360TM has more lightning information than any other lightning network with daily counts routinely exceeding 1.5 million events. It also has superior location accuracy, polarity classification and peak current estimates. The GLD360TM service greatly enhances the forecasting and early warnings capability for high seas, thunderstorms and cyclones to help customers such as the NWS make more informed decisions, increase operational safety and efficiency, and deliver better services.
The primary mission of the NWS is to provide weather forecasts and warnings for the protection of life and property. The continued selection of Vaisala as the NWS data provider of choice acknowledges the value that the NWS places on Vaisala's scientific integrity and validation programs. Vaisala's lightning data is a key parameter for severe storm tracking and for many NWS's forecasting models. The lightning data is disseminated throughout the NWS organization and used by more than 100 regional Weather Forecast Offices across the US, as well as specialized offices including the Aviation Weather Center (AWC), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Storm Prediction Center (SPC).
Vaisala lightning data is used operationally by the NWS in a variety of vital public safety activities, including:
- Forecasters use Vaisala lightning data to identify thunderstorm initiation
- Vaisala lightning data is combined with other datasets, such as radar, to determine the intensity, life cycle, and trends of severe storms
- The Aviation Weather Center uses Vaisala NLDN data in developing many aviation products, particularly those related to convective SIGMETS
- The SPC uses Vaisala lightning data in the identification and tracking of thunderstorms across the country
- The NHC uses Vaisala NLDN and GLD360TM data for marine forecasting and monitoring across the North Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and NE Pacific. NHC also uses the lightning data to monitor convective storms for tropical cyclone development, which is often supplemented with data from Vaisala RD94 dropsondes deployed by the Hurricane Hunters
Vaisala has installed over 90 lightning networks across 45 countries and there are over 1,000 publications describing the performance or applications of these networks. Vaisala continues to set the benchmark for lightning detection science and performance, beginning with the NLDN itself, which has had 3rd party validation studies published in peer-reviewed journals since its inception in 1989.
The award is also very timely given Vaisala's ongoing support and input to NOAA/NWS Lightning Safety Awareness Week that is held annually in the last week of June (www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov). On average in the US each year more than 50 people are killed and hundreds more permanently injured by lightning. Vaisala provides NLDN flash density and frequency information by State that provides the gold standard for N. America lightning activity and is used in support of media interviews and as a source for lightning safety educators and meteorologists around the country. The provision of lightning data to the NWS and other government agencies highlights Vaisala's commitment to the maturing weather and climate enterprise, which is at the heart of the public-private-academic intersect.