Lightning Maps for YT?

Wildfire season is upon us, albeit quietly in the southern Yukon, but not for those near us. This has me thinking of the primary cause of wildfire, lightning (followed closely by human carelessness), and, of course, maps and spatial data. What kind of lightning maps and data are there?

(Aside: Keep an eye on Yukon government’s Wildfire Maps page from Community Services branch for current and historical Yukon fire activity.)

Canada’s Weather service has a near real-time lightening map, but zoom and pan is limited to a narrow selection of coarse regions and you can’t add/remove layers, change projection etc.

The Canadian Lightning Danger Map (CLDM) represents areas at greatest risk of being struck by lightning in the next 10 minutes.

From <http://www.weather.gc.ca/lightning/index_e.html>

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Real time data is not available. That appears to be a commercial subscription service of which Canada participates, I assume on a quid pro quo basis. There is mention of historical data being available on request, so I asked.

Vaisala Global Lightning Dataset GLD360 is a service that provides real-time lightning data for accurate and early detection and tracking of severe weather. The data provided is generated by a Vaisala owned and operated world wide network. From <http://www.vaisala.com/en/products/thunderstormandlightningdetectionsystems/Pages/GLD360.aspx>

The maps are pretty simple, the urls predictable, and the strike colour high contrast. It shouldn’t be that difficult to build a screen scraper to turn those bitmaps back into (very fuzzy) data. It could even be quite a bit of fun. But. What a kludge.

Are there any other choices? Well yes, for under 300 euros you can put up your own lightening detector and participate in the Blitzortung.org amateur lightning detection network. As long as your station is sending data you can download all the other station data from around the world.

[LightningMaps.org depicting strikes of] the last 60 minutes … The real-time data comes directly from the computing servers of Blitzortung.org, which are fed by hundreds of stations on several continents. The delay is calculated from the time stamps of each strokes compared to the current time.

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Ok, amateur, but is it any good? Judging from one evening of research and a single trial of comparing screenshots, yes. In fact Blitzortung seems to have more data than Canada Weather (probably due to differences in how far back they each time slice) — excepting the Territories. So Yukon, how about it? Can you convince yourself and some friends to put skin in the game? I’m in with some cash and volunteer hours, but for success we need:

… individuals with an interest in meteorology and competencies in electrical and computer engineering. For the construction and operation of a lightning detector a basic understanding of the used reception technique is necessary.

From <http://en.blitzortung.org/cover_your_area.php>

Know anyone who might fit that bill and be interested? Drop me a line.


2017-Jul-21: Environment Canada responded quickly to the historical data request. The exchange was prompt, courteous and friendly. Unfortunately it’s not adequate for mapping, as it’s not data. I followed up by asking for csv, geojson, shapefile, … but that is not available at this time due to licensing restrictions. What they can give are screenshots of Google Earth or Maps above a given location on your date of interest.

In the good-to-know category, there is an error ellipse associate with each strike that’s not depicted in the point rendering, see 3rd image. (99% confidence that strike occurred within the shaded area.)

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