Hydrometeorological services use lightning data for their own internal purposes so as to improve weather forecasts and carry out climate research. These organisations can increasingly provide lightning data to their users and thus add value to their services.

Lightning data for a hydrometeorological service

Many hydrometeorological organisations around the world are already using lightning data in their operations as part of their work to provide information and warnings.  Thus in England, France, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Spain and Switzerland the hydrometeorological service owns and operates its own lightning detection network. In other countries, the meteorological service is the key user for the lightning detection network operator, be they an electricity transmission operator or service provider.

Lightning data, through their accuracy and continuous nature, add a reliable additional element to radar data and satellite images; they exhibit no delays or artefacts and are easily interpreted. Lightning strikes are an excellent indicator of thunderstorm activity; they allow the pin-pointing of cumulonimbus clouds and wind shear, estimation of the speed at which convection cells are moving and the time remaining before a thunderstorm reaches a given site.


Forecasters use lightning data to supplement other data and particularly because of their real-time aspect. “Nowcasting” is a key application of lightning data. Climatologists use the data to identify trends within regions or over set periods. Analyses make use of the information to perform case studies, generate incident reports and to support the analysis of exceptional situations.

Lightning data are used for air traffic, for airport and route briefings; they are also used for civil protection applications such as forest fire prevention or flood management etc..

Lightning data are also integrated into products supplied by meteorological services to their customers. Either as a supplementary layer of information, or merged with other sources (radar, satellite).