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Knowledge  Lightning



The basis of a highly precise weather forecast is data. Lightning data is one important input for precisely forecasting thunderstorms. With nowcast lightning data, UBIMET is able to evaluate storm cells more accurately and issue more detailed severe weather warnings, very precise in time and space.


UBIMET works with the lightning detection system developed and operated by nowcast. Europe and Australia are fully covered.

The LDS consists of sensors measuring the lightning, an extensive network of these sensors and a sophisticated algorithm that calculates the exact location of the lightning. The result is very detailed and precise lightning data.

The lightning detection technology was invented in 1988 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich/Germany. Because of the great importance of lightning data, UBIMET and nowcast entered into a strategic partnership in 2013. Together, they want to make the nowcast lightning detection system available globally. 

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LDS in Action

In this video a visualisation of UBIMET’s Lightning Detection System is seen. This striking, ninety second time lapse video shows lightning and radar data in Australia over a period of three days from Friday 21st of November to Monday 24th of November, 2014 – a common phenomenon for the last days of spring. 

The radar is displayed in colours, where blue, green and orange indicate light to moderate precipitation, while red and purple indicate heavier precipitation and perhaps even hail. The white crosses show all lightning at the time it is detected. The white crosses get darker and darker – to dark red – until the lightning fades away.

With the detailed lightning data, powered by nowcast, UBIMET evaluates storm cells with even more precision. 


  • Cloud-to-ground and intra-cloud strokes: More lightning
    nowcast ascertains and distinguishes between cloud-to-ground and intra-cloud strokes. 

  • Unparalleled efficiency: More signals
    The use of a sophisticated antenna configuration, low thresholds and the optimization of sensors allow the detection of even weak flashes. As a result, nowcast detects a representative sample of intra-cloud flashes as well as weak ground strikes that cannot be measured by other systems.

  • High location accuracy and minimal error rate: Higher exactness
    The measurement network generally allows the location of strokes with at least five sensors – the essential prerequisite for unmatched location accuracy and minimal scattering. nowcast has succeeded in perfecting the time of arrival (TOA) method to the point where flashes are located with an accuracy of better than 82 yd (75 m).

  • Patented 3-D locating: Altitude of lightning
    nowcast not only distinguishes between intra-cloud and ground flashes, but also determines the altitude of the intra-cloud flashes. The patented low-frequency 3-D locating antenna performs loss-free processing of all signals detected from intra-cloud and ground strokes.


nowcast measures the electromagnetic waves that lightning strokes emit with highly sensitive sensors located across intervals of ca. 100 mi (160 km).The electromagnetic emission of lightning spreads at the speed of light and reaches the sensors at different points in time. Although the difference is a matter of mere microseconds, the exact calculation of the original emission location of the lightning stroke is possible. 

The data measured by each sensor is transmitted to a central server. The server calculates the exact geographical position for the lightning stroke measured. Data is updated every minute. This measurement method is also known as the “time-of-arrival” method.