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Weather Satellite Developed In Bay Area Will Provide Life-Saving Data

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) -- A new satellite launching next week will provide weather data so advanced experts say it could actually save lives.

KPIX 5 on Tuesday got a look inside Lockheed Martin's clean room in Palo Alto where the Geostationary Lightning Mapper is located.

The new GLM as it's called is plated in gold for UV protection. The satellite is the first of its kind able to detect lightning from space.

The high-speed camera captures 500 frames per second. It can track lightning inside a storm -- both cloud to ground and cloud to cloud strikes -- in real time. That's something that's never been done before.

It's been a decade in the making. GLM Chief Scientist Samantha Edgington was there from the very start, overseeing the project from its conception to now reality.

"It's about the same age as my oldest son. It's sort of like a child. You send it out into the world and hope it does really well. It's very exciting," explained Edgington

The advanced lightning detection will help meteorologists follow a storm, tracking its development and dissipation.

This crucial data will help them give earlier lead times to devastating weather events like tornadoes.

The new lightning data can pinpoint the exact part of the storm that has a lot of convection which causes turbulence. This information can help pilots reroute and potentially save lives.

The "Goes West" satellite launches from Florida next Thursday.

Right now, the average lead time for a tornado warning is about 13 minutes. But with the new lightning detection, it will increase the lead time to 30 to 45 minutes.

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