Dear Tom,

What is the technology that allows weather radar to detect lightening strikes?
Jo Anne Lightfoot, Schaumburg

Dear Jo Anne,

Radar detects precipitation and Doppler radar provides the enhancement of circulation which helps meteorologists detect tornadoes; but radar does not detect lightning.  There are lightning detectors that are used in conjunction with radar to document electrical activity. Currently, lightning flashes are detected and mapped in real-time by two different networks in the United States–the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN), a system owned and operated by Vaisala Inc, and Earth Networks’ Total Lightning Network. These networks detect radio waves that are emitted by the lightning strokes that travel in the cloud or from cloud to ground. Network triangulation is used to determine the location of the lightning.