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Colorado Company's Lightning Detection Device Helps Meteorologists Worldwide

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) - Thanks to technology developed by a Colorado-based company, meteorologists can have a better understanding of lightning and how it relates to storms around the globe. Vaisala, a weather technology company in Louisville, created a lightning detection device that monitors the skies across the world.

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With their technology, and more than 100 devices installed across the United States alone, they can detect cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. The technology uses radio bursts from the lightning to determine where it took place. Each individual detector is capable of monitoring lightning within hundreds of miles.

"We can pinpoint the location of where the lightning hit the ground to within about two football fields," said Ryan Said, an expert with Vaisala.

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The technology collects the data within 15 seconds of a strike and sends it back to the company's server. From there, Vaisala is able to sell their data to those interested. Current users include the National Weather Service and many airports.

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The detectors show most lightning strikes happen east of the Continental Divide. Strikes per square mile are most common in Florida, Louisianna and Arkansas. Simply due to its size, Texas has the most flashes overall. Colorado ranks 30th in the nation for flash density, most of which occur east of the Interstate 25 corridor.

Compared to a 10 year survey of lightning, strikes decreased in 2018. The national average dropped, in comparison to the average, by 10 percent. In Colorado, strikes were down 5 percent compared to the average with under 470,000 in 2018.

"In Colorado, we average 500,000 lightning flashes that hit the ground every year," Said said.

The software showed Denver averaged 3.3 strikes per square mile. Sedgwick had the most, on average, with 19.3. Alamosa had the least, with 0.8.

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Those with Vaisala said they hoped to soon pair their data with numbers collected from new satellite technology. By doing so, they could better track more dangerous lightning, the type that often causes wildfires.

To see Vaisala's global lightning collection, visit

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