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I can't stop! I can't stop myself!
June 23, 2014 5:21 AM   Subscribe

Watch every lightning strike in North America, in real time.
posted by theodolite (46 comments total) 93 users marked this as a favorite

 
You can switch to the other continents, as well. Cool find.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:24 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


The grey squares at the start of each ray are sensors, I take it? And these sensors can tell the exact direction of lightning striking thousands of miles away? Impressive.
posted by bitslayer at 5:26 AM on June 23


Awesome, thanks! And here I was worried that I was going to be productive this morning.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 5:29 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


Electric!

(Though that pitiful sound effect definitely needs work.)
posted by fairmettle at 5:30 AM on June 23


Here's how it's done, from their website:

"Project Description
"Blitzortung.org" is a lightning detection network for the location of electromagnetic discharges in the atmosphere (lightning discharges) based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method. It consists of several lightning receivers and one central processing server. The stations transmit their data in short time intervals over the Internet to our server. Every data sentence contains the precise time of arrival of the received lightning discharge impulse ("sferic") and the exact geographic position of the receiver. With this information from all stations the exact positions of the discharges are computed. The aim of the project is to establish a low budget lightning location network with a high number of stations. The price for the hardware used is less than 200 Euro. The sferic positions are free accessible in raw format to all stations that transmit their data to our server. The station owner can use the raw data for all non-commercial purposes. The lightning activity of the last two hours is additionally displayed on several public maps recomputed every minute.

"Blitzortung.org" is a community of station operators who transmit their data to the central server, programmers who develop and/or implement algorithms for the location or visualization of sferic positions, and people who assist anyway to keep the system running. There is no restriction on membership. All people who keep the network in operation are volunteers. There is no fee and no contract. If a station stops pooling its data, the server stops providing the access to the archive of sferics positions for the user of that station. A detailed description about how to participate to the network and how to setup an own receiver can be found in the following document."

posted by HuronBob at 5:33 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


It looks like the visuals are based on Missile Command. And that's a good thing!
posted by chavenet at 5:34 AM on June 23 [7 favorites]


This is really cool.
I am quite tempted to add one of these to my main sensor array.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:38 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


This is very cool!! I love this kind of thing. (I didn't know the storms were going to be here so early today..)
posted by royalsong at 5:49 AM on June 23


Hey fairmettle, a better sound for the strike would be good. Like THUNDER~! There is a toggle to shut off the sounds too.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:59 AM on June 23


Excellent find, theodolite!
posted by rmmcclay at 5:59 AM on June 23


This is awesome. What's the story behind these detectors? I notice they are heavily concentrated in countries that, thirty or so years ago, were very worried about nukes hitting them. Any connection?
posted by Happy Dave at 6:03 AM on June 23


~ Electric!
(Though that pitiful sound effect definitely needs work.)
~a better sound for the strike would be good. Like THUNDER~!


Have you ever actually heard the sound of a lightning strike? It's a very quick, electric *snap!* very similar to the sounds this map is making (only a bit louder). The thunder you hear is the expansion of rapidly heated air, caused by the lightning. Thunder isn't the sound of the actual lightning strike.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Looks like a good day to stay inside, eat chocolate, and make watches out of Nazi gold. Because you're Swiss. And there's a huge thunderstorm out right now.
posted by Panjandrum at 6:12 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Neato! See that cluster of strikes over south Louisiana? It's out over the swamp now, but yesterday in New Orleans, it made life difficult for me and a little boy I was trying to take to the park.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:15 AM on June 23


This is really awesome when you go to Weatherspark and zoom out a bit and look at rainfall on the radar map side by side with it. Welcome to the future.
posted by Catblack at 6:21 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Wow, look at the Alps!

(I still kind of miss thunderstorms, though. We only get maybe one a year here in the Bay Area, and I was 30 miles too far south for the last ones we had, dammit.)
posted by rtha at 6:22 AM on June 23


Thunder isn't the sound of the actual lightning strike.

That's odd, I wonder why I keep associating the two?
posted by fairmettle at 6:25 AM on June 23


I applaud the thread title.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:30 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


I kind of wish I could turn this into a screensaver for my computer.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 6:33 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


WOW this is incredibly useful! Just this weekend i was driving around with my partner who hates thunder. A HUGE blast of lightning went off over us and they cringed waiting the thunder... which never came! Now we can be better prepared.

Also, I assume that the white circles are the speed of sound traveling out from the blast, is that correct? if that's the case then holy crap supersonic jets go fast.

on reflection, there's no way it's meeting the "1 second = 1 mile" rule.
posted by rebent at 6:46 AM on June 23


That's odd, I wonder why I keep associating the two?

Because one causes the other. But, the thunder isn't the sound of the actual strike of lightning, it's the sound of air being heated by the lightning...Basically a shock-wave. Just last week, I was working out in the garage while a summer storm was moving through. At one point, lighting hit close enough to hear the electric *CLICK!* of the strike right before the house-shaking *BANG!* of the thunder.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]


People are always posting different weather sites. I feel like people forget the great tools that are actually available. I am the Weather Guy at my office job, and I have three things and make accurate predictions to the hour very consistently.

http://weatherspark.com/
Site with radar/hourly temp/humidity/airpressure stats.

http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en
Site with lightning strikes (better and more interactive)

http://earth.nullschool.net/
Wind speed/direction site.

Spend the most time on weatherspark. Zoom in on hour by hour storm prediction and correlate with the cloud map to guess if the clouds will actually hit you or not.

Let me know if you have any better sites than these three!
posted by bbqturtle at 6:58 AM on June 23 [30 favorites]


http://forecast.io is quite good for "It will rain where you are in 30 minutes."
posted by BungaDunga at 7:08 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


I've only had a chance to skim it, but their PDF about lightning and how the sensors work looks very well written.

Happy Dave - This is awesome. What's the story behind these detectors? I notice they are heavily concentrated in countries that, thirty or so years ago, were very worried about nukes hitting them. Any connection?

Based on the cover your area page, it looks like this is a community project: all the sensors have been built from a kit that they supply, and put online by volunteers. Given the German-sounding name, it makes a lot of sense that Germany, Switzerland and Austria are so heavily over-represented. Not sure what would influence the spread of the network in other countries. I'm very tempted to order a kit though, as building one looks like a fun project and I don't see a sensor marked in my part of the country.
posted by metaBugs at 7:12 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Needs a setting to hear the word "impact", a la the end of War Games.
posted by klausman at 7:14 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


http://earth.nullschool.net/
Wind speed/direction site.


Oh my god it all makes sense now! Seriously! For the vast majority of my life I lived in the southeastern US. Weather was tempestuous, but for the most part very easy to predict. It always came from the West or South West and blew through to the East. Then I moved to the DC area and I've been at such a loss as to why I could never really predict what the weather would bring with any accuracy. Seeing the wind visualization though makes me realize just how many factors there are to deal with in DC. For whatever naive country mouse mindset, I never thought weather would come FROM the East or North it was supposed to go away that direction! This makes it all make sense!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:24 AM on June 23


Just don't try to use this thing when the monsoons here in Tucson start up. It'll sound like a post-apocalyptic Geiger counter.
posted by MrVisible at 7:27 AM on June 23


I assume that the white circles are the speed of sound traveling out from the blast, is that correct?

I think they're just a visual aid so you can see approximately where it originated if there are a lot of simultaneous strikes. The speed of sound at sea level is ~760mph, which is about 1 mile in 5 seconds.
posted by tempestuoso at 7:37 AM on June 23


on reflection, there's no way it's meeting the "1 second = 1 mile" rule.

OK. So, I'm not the only one who thought this, eh? I did a little math a while back and realized that I was lied to as a child.

The speed of sound at sea level is ~0.2 miles/second. The rule should actually be "5 seconds = 1 mile". So, it actually means that it's even worse that you think for those little circles.

The speed of light is so high that you can approximate your viewing of bolt as being synchronous with the strike.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:15 AM on June 23


The rule should actually be "5 seconds = 1 mile".

A count of five per mile was always the rule in my household growing up and what I've told my kids. Glad to know we were basically on track!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:34 AM on June 23


I want to be able to click on the map and MAKE lightning, dammit.

I'd pick on London a lot.
posted by dowcrag at 8:36 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]


Let me know if you have any better sites than these three!

Some of the local NWS weather offices create daily "Weather Story" graphics for their websites. I'm very fond of the one my local (Chicago) office puts together, which frequently has weird touches (like the curtains(?) you can see today) and features breathlessly exuberant language on the rare day we actually have decent weather.
posted by theodolite at 8:38 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Incorporating this lightning map with the map on WeatherSpark (my personal fave weather site) would be fantastic.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:58 AM on June 23


BungaDunga: "http://forecast.io is quite good for "It will rain where you are in 30 minutes.""

Can we shut down that site please? I've had enough rain for this year.
posted by chavenet at 9:26 AM on June 23


OH NO this is fucking mesmerizing, someone please take this away from me thx
posted by elizardbits at 9:37 AM on June 23


Just for the record, early research into lightning detection and location in the 1920s led directly to Huff-Duff, one of the less well known but vital bits of electronic warfare in World War II, by Watson-Watt. Those wily U boat captains had taken to sending their wireless reports very, very quickly - too quickly for standard "wave the loop around" direction-finding to locate them. Lightning detection had already solved the problem of dealing with very short bursts of radio frequency energy, so (after a few problems with how ships' hulls distort wavefronts) was ideal for the task.
posted by Devonian at 10:16 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


This website! I like it! ANOTHER! *SMASH*
posted by The otter lady at 10:57 AM on June 23


http://www.lightningmaps.org/realtime?lang=en
Site with lightning strikes (better and more interactive)

This is just a different frontend to the same data.

Short technical explanation on how the whole thing works:
Each station consists of an antenna (e.g. ferrite rod, frame antenna or vertical rod), a preamplifier board and a processing board built around a microcontroller. The microcontroller digitizes the signal from the preamplifier board. It also has access to a GPS module (it's one pulse per second is used as a very exact time reference) and to an ethernet interface to submit the collected data to the server.
posted by mirage pine at 11:46 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]


This is super cool; thank you for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:59 AM on June 23


Let me know if you have any better sites than these three!

Well, I regularly use aviationweather.gov even for my day-to-day forecasting needs. The more general weather.gov is also really useful, especially the forecast discussions. I realize this going to be like "roll your own linux distro" for computer advice, but I do like to go straight to the source; all of these weather sites rely on NWS reporting for the majority of their data. What differentiates them is the postprocessing that goes into the forecast products. These are your tax dollars providing a real, tangible service to the whole country.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:23 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


...And I am watching the storm I'm in right now. This is very cool.

Elsewhere, northern Indiana is getting hammered.
posted by mochapickle at 12:51 PM on June 23


How come the wind over land is negligible compare to the wind over water?
posted by rebent at 1:54 PM on June 23


Just for the record, early research into lightning detection and location in the 1920s led directly to Huff-Duff

Similar research into butter eating led directly to Hurf Durf.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:22 PM on June 23


I find that By extreme powers of concentration I am able to will a strike to a particular area. This is a frightening power, but I make this solemn promise: I will do no evil, uh, at least as defined by Google.
posted by Jeff Dewey at 6:07 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Get the Javascript console in your browser (mac chrome is alt-cmd-j, I forget what the other os's is), paste this into your browser, you'll have an interesting experience. s/the url/a new url/g for another experience:

var myAudio = new Array (new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"),new Audio("http://www.shockwave-sound.com/sound-effects/explosion-sounds/Arcade%20Explo%20A.wav"));
posted by curuinor at 6:56 PM on June 23


Neat.
posted by aroweofshale at 2:12 AM on June 24


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