NASA GHRC Collaboration between NASA MSFC and The University of Alabama in Huntsville
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        With HyDRO, you can search, discover, and filter GHRC's dataset holdings.

        HyDRO will also help you find information about browse imagery, access restrictions, and dataset guide documents.
    • Coincidence Search
      • The GHRC Coincidence Search Engine (CSE) may be used to search for times when up to four satellites were over or within the same geographic area simultaneously.

        Searches may be constrained by time, geographic area, and/or distance between the satellites.
    • OPeNDAP
      • This is our current OPeNDAP server.

        You can access, download, and subset our main data catalog using this link through your web browser or stand-alone OPeNDAP client applications.
    • Storm Tracks DB
      • The Tropical Storm Tracks database is derived from the storm data published by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

        This web page provides a convenient user interface for casually browsing storm information, including location, category, and wind speed.
    • AMSU Temp Trends
      • Daily averaged temperatures of the Earth are measured by the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) on NASA's Aqua satellite.
    • NASA Earthdata Search
      • Earthdata is NASA's next generation metadata and service discovery tool, providing search and access capabilities for dataset holdings at all of the Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) including the GHRC.
    • Latest Data (HyDRO)
      • View the latest additions to our data holdings using HyDRO.
  • Measurements
  • Field Campaigns
    • Hurricane Science
      • GHRC has worked with NASA's Hurricane Science Research Program (HSRP) since the 1990's. We are the archive and distribution center for data collected during HSRP field campaigns, as well as the recent Hurricane Science and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Earth Venture mission. Field campaigns provide for intensive observation of specific phenomena using a variety of instruments on aircraft, satellites and surface networks.

        GHRC also hosts a database of Atlantic and Pacific tropical storm tracks derived from the storm data published by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
    • HS3 (2012-14)
      • Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) is an Earth Ventures – Suborbital 1 mission aimed at better understanding the physical processes that control hurricane intensity change, addressing questions related to the roles of environmental conditions and internal storm structures to storm intensification.

        A variety of in-situ, satellite observations, airborne data, meteorological analyses, and simulation data were collected with missions over the Atlantic in August and September of three observation years (2012, 2013, 2014). These data are available at GHRC beginning in 2015.
    • GRIP (2010)
      • The Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment was a NASA Earth science field experiment in 2010 that was conducted to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes.

        The GRIP deployment was 15 August – 30 September 2010 with bases in Ft. Lauderdale, FL for the DC-8, at Houston, TX for the WB-57, and at NASA Dryden Flight Research Facility, CA for the Global Hawk.
    • TC4 (2007)
      • The NASA TC4 (Tropical Composition, Cloud and Climate Coupling) mission investigated the structure and properties of the chemical, dynamic, and physical processes in atmosphere of the tropical Eastern Pacific.

        TC4 was based in San Jose, Costa Rica during July 2007.

        The Real Time Mission Monitor provided simultaneous aircraft status for three aircraft during the TC4 experiment. During TC4, the NASA ER-2, WB-57 and DC-8 aircraft flew missions at various times. The science flights were scheduled between 17 July and 8 August 2007.
    • NAMMA (2006)
      • The NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (NAMMA) campaign was a field research investigation based in the Cape Verde Islands, 350 miles off the coast of Senegal in west Africa.

        Commenced in August 2006, NASA scientists employed surface observation networks and aircraft to characterize the evolution and structure of African Easterly Waves (AEWs) and Mesoscale Convective Systems over continental western Africa, and their associated impacts on regional water and energy budgets.
    • TCSP (2005)
      • The Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) mission was an Earth science field research investigation focused on the study of the dynamics and thermodynamics of precipitating cloud systems and tropical cyclones. TCSP was conducted during the period July 1-27, 2005 out of the Juan Santamaria Airfield in San Jose, Costa Rica.

        The TCSP field experiment flew 12 NASA ER-2 science flights, including missions to Hurricanes Dennis and Emily, Tropical Storm Gert and an eastern Pacific mesoscale complex that may possibly have further developed into Tropical Storm Eugene.
    • ACES (2002)
      • The Altus Cumulus Electrification Study (ACES) was aimed at better understanding the causes and effects of electrical storms.

        Based at the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, researchers in August 2002 chased down thunderstorms using an uninhabited aerial vehicle, or "UAV", allowing them to achieve dual goals of gathering weather data safely and testing new aircraft technology. This marked the first time a UAV was used to conduct lightning research.
    • CAMEX-4 (2001)
      • The Convection And Moisture EXperiment (CAMEX) was a series of NASA-sponsored hurricane science field research investigations. The fourth field campaign in the CAMEX series (CAMEX-4) was held in 16 August - 24 September, 2001 and was based out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Florida.

        CAMEX-4 was focused on the study of tropical cyclone (hurricane) development, tracking, intensification, and landfalling impacts using NASA-funded aircraft and surface remote sensing instrumentation.
    • CAMEX-3 (1998)
      • The Convection And Moisture EXperiment (CAMEX) is a series of hurricane science field research investigations sponsored by NASA. The third field campaign in the CAMEX series (CAMEX-3) was based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida from 6 August - 23 September, 1998.

        CAMEX-3 successfully studied Hurricanes Bonnie, Danielle, Earl and Georges, yielding data on hurricane structure, dynamics, and motion. CAMEX-3 collected data for research in tropical cyclone development, tracking, intensification, and landfalling impacts using NASA-funded aircraft and surface remote sensing instrumentation.
    • GPM Ground Validation
      • The NASA Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM) Ground Validation (GV) program includes the following field campaigns:

        a) LPVEx, Gulf of Finland in autumn 2010, to study rainfall in high latitude environments

        b) MC3E, cental Oklahoma spring and early summer 2011, to develop a complete characterization of convective cloud systems, precipitation and the environment

        c) GCPEx, Ontario, Canada winter of 2011-2012, direct and remove sensing observations, and coordinated model simulations of precipitating snow.

        d) IFloodS, Iowa, spring and early summer 2013, to study the relative roles of rainfall quantities and other factors in flood genesis.

        e) IPHEx, N. Carolina Appalachians/Piedmont region May-June 2014, for hydrologic validation over varied topography.

        f) OLYMPEx, Washington's Olympic Peninsula scheduled November 2015-February 2016, for hydrologic validation in extreme coastal and topographic gradients
    • OLYMPEX (Upcoming)
      • The OLYMPEX field campaign is scheduled to take place between November, 2015, and February, 2016, on the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

        This field campaign will provide ground-based validation support of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite program that is a joint effort between NASA and JAXA.

        As for all GPM-GV campaigns, the GHRC will provide a collaboration portal to help investigators exchange planning information and to support collection of real-time data as well as mission science, project and instrument status reports during the campaign.
    • IPHEx (2014)
      • The Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment (IPHEx) was conducted in North Carolina during the months of April-June, 2014.

        IPHEx sought to characterize warm season orographic precipitation regimes, and the relationship between precipitation regimes and hydrologic processes in regions of complex terrain.
    • IFLOODs (2013)
      • The Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) experiment was conducted in the central to northeastern part of Iowa in Midwestern United States during the months of April-June, 2013.

        IFloodS' primary goal was to discern the relative roles of rainfall quantities such as rate and accumulation as compared to other factors (e.g. transport of water in the drainage network) in flood genesis.
    • GCPEX (2011-2012)
      • The GPM Cold-season Precipitation Experiment (GCPEx) occurred in Ontario, Canada during the winter season (Jan 15- Feb 26) of 2011-2012.

        GCPEx addressed shortcomings in GPM snowfall retrieval algorithm by collecting microphysical properties, associated remote sensing observations, and coordinated model simulations of precipitating snow. Collectively the GCPEx data set provides a high quality, physically-consistent and coherent data set suited to the development and testing of GPM snowfall retrieval algorithm physics.
    • MC3E (2011)
      • The Mid-latitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment (MC3E) took place in central Oklahoma during the April–June 2011 period.

        The overarching goal was to provide the most complete characterization of convective cloud systems, precipitation, and the environment that has ever been obtained, providing constraints for model cumulus parameterizations and space-based rainfall retrieval algorithms over land that had never before been available.
    • LPVEx (2010)
      • The Light Precipitation Evaluation Experiment (LPVEx) took place in the Gulf of Finland in September and October, 2010 and collected microphysical properties, associated remote sensing observations, and coordinated model simulations of high latitude precipitation systems to drive the evaluation and development of precipitation algorithms for current and future satellite platforms.

        In doing so, LPVEx sought to address the general lack of dedicated ground-validation datasets from the ongoing development of new or improved algorithms for detecting and quantifying high latitude rainfall
  • Projects
    • HS3 Suborbital Mission
      • Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) is an Earth Ventures – Suborbital 1 mission aimed at better understanding the physical processes that control hurricane intensity change, addressing questions related to the roles of environmental conditions and internal storm structures to storm intensification.
      • DISCOVER was funded by NASA’s MEaSUREs program to provide highly accurate, multi-decadal geophysical products derived from satellite microwave sensors.
    • LIS Mission
      • Lightning observations from the Lightning Imaging Sensors (LIS) aboard the NASA’s TRMM satellite and International Space Station, as well as airborne observations and ground validation data.
    • SANDS
      • The SANDS project addressed Gulf of Mexico Alliance priority issues by generating enhanced imagery from MODIS and Landsat data to identify suspended sediment resulting from tropical cyclones. These tropical cyclones have significantly altered normal coastal processes and characteristics in the Gulf region through sediment disturbance.
      • The Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) system provides access to near real-time data (less than 3 hours from observation) from AIRS, AMSR2, MLS, MODIS, and OMI instruments. LANCE AMSR2 products are generated by the AMSR Science Investigator-led Processing System at the GHRC.
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    • Innovations Lab
      • The GHRC Innovations Lab is a showcase for emerging geoinformatics technologies resulting from NASA-sponsored research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
    • Educational Resources
      • A list of resources from NASA, MSFC, and other sources for teachers and students focused on global change, hydrology, and science education.
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Lightning & Atmospheric Electricity Research

Lightning Home

The Lightning Team

A Lightning Primer

File Cabinet and Bookshelf


Global Lightning Image
Global Lightning Image
Global lightning strikes from January 1998 to present day from the NASA/MSFC Lightning Imaging Sensor

Field Campaigns and Ground Validation

Over the past two decades, the GHCC Lightning Team has been involved in numerous field campaigns around the globe. By measuring the the electrical properties of thunderstorms, members of the GHCC Lightning Team have helped advance the field of Atmospheric Electricity while providing insight into key elements of the global hydrological cycle.

During the early and mid 1980s, many of the field measurements recorded by the GHCC Lightning Team were used to verify that optical signals produced during a lightning discharge are powerful enough to be viewed from a space. These measurements led to the design and deployment of the Optical Transient Detector and the Lightning Imaging Sensor. From the late 1980s, the airborne and ground based measurements of lightning activity have been used to support field campaigns which were designed to investigate storm convection and precipitation in various climatological regimes. In the future, our involvement in field programs will include the validation of the data obtained by the space based lightning detection instruments, such as OTD and LIS.

The COoperative Huntsville Meteorological EXperiment was conducted in the vicinity of Huntsville, Alabama during June-July, 1986. The objectives of this field experiment were to investigate the morphology, dynamics, microphysics, and electrical evolution of storms and the relation of storm electrical activity to precipitation and dynamical processes. The primary instrumentation used in quantifying storm electrification included the ER-2 LIP, 4-station MSFC lightning direction finder network, NCAR research radars, and T-28 field mills.


Airborne Field Mill (ABFM) Project, summer 1990, 1991; winter 1992 in the vicinity of Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The purpose of this study was to determine when weakly convective or layered cloud systems are electrified and to produce remote sensing tools to predict the electrification. The study was designed to address the existing launch commit criteria for eleectrified clouds that had the potential to cause triggered lightning discharges. An instrumented Lear 28/29 jet was used to penetrate developing cumulus clouds and measure the vector electric field and some simple cloud parameters. The airborne measurements were compared to radar to determine some of the conditions necessary for cumulus cloud electrification.


The Convection and Precipitation/Electrification field experiment was conducted between 8 July to 18 August 1991 in east central Florida in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral. The objectives of this field experiment were to 1) identify relationships between co-evolving wind, water, and electric fields within convective clouds and 2) determine the meteorological and electrical conditions in which natural and triggered lightning can/cannot occur. Research instruments included the ER-2 LIP, NCAR research radars, KSC field mill network, and KSC LDAR.


The U. S. Weather Research Program, formerly the STormscale Operational and Research Meteorology (STORM) program, conducted an experiment called the STORM-FEST (Fronts Experiment Systems Test) from 1 February to 15 March 1992. The objectives were to study the mesoscale structure and dynamics of wintertime fronts, associated precipitation, and severe weather over the Central U.S. with the latest observing systems. During this program, the Lightning Instrument Package (LIP) was flown aboard the ER-2 high altitude aircraft.


The Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) was designed to improve our understanding of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. A coordinated study of thunderstorms and lightning was conducted during the intensive 4-month observing period November 1992 to February 1993. A network of cloud-to-ground lightning sensors was installed with sites on Kapingamarangi Atoll and near the towns of Rabul and Kavieng, Papua New Guinea. Electrical measurements were also made from the NASA ER-2 and DC-8 airplanes.


The first two CAMEX field studies were conducted at Wallops Island, Virginia during September 1993, and 21 August to 2 September 1995. The third in the series of CAMEX field studies (CAMEX-3) is planned for August to September 1998. CAMEX-3 will be devoted to the study of Atlantic hurricane tracking and intensification using NASA-funded aircraft remote sensing instrumentation. The NASA ER-2 Lightning Instrument Package (LIP) is used to measure the DC and transient (i.e., lightning) electric fields, optical pulses, and atmospheric conductivity as the aircraft flies over the tops of storms. These data will be used to 1) investigate lightning-storm relationships and 2) provide validation for the TRMM mission.


The Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment (MCTEX) was conducted from 13 November to 10 December 1995 over the Bathurst and Melville Islands (the ``Tiwi Islands''), located approximately 50 km off the coast of Australia's Northern Territory. This international experiment was designed to study the vigorous life cycle dynamics, microphysics, and lightning produced by these island thunderstorms. The characteristics of these thunderstorms were obtained with a 4-station cloud-to-ground lightning network, surface electric field instruments, and a doppler radar.


In the spring of 1998, the ER-2 LIP will be flown in a 3 to 4 week field campaign called the TExas FLorida UNderflight (TEFLUN) experiment in support of validation of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM). This field campaign will focus on the U.S. Gulf Coast and especially on the priority TRMM ground validation (GV) sites in Texas and Florida.

Tropical "Ocean" Field Campaign (Kwajalein)

In the summer of 1999, there are plans to conduct a tropical ocean campaign in the vicinity of Kwajalien atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). During this program, the convective aspects of the northern component of the ITCZ which occuring in the central Pacific Ocean will be investigated. The Lightning Instrument Package (LIP) will fly on the NASA DC-8, and cloud-to-ground lightning measurements will be obtained from a three station ALDF network operated by Aeromet, Corporation. For TRMM ground truth, MSFC is looking at the possibility of modifying the existing systems or expanding the coverage of the network.

Tropical "Land" Field Campaign (Brazil)

During January and February 1999, there are plans to conduct a tropical land campaign during the wet season in Brazil to coincide with the wet phase of the Large-scale Boisphere_atmosphere (LBA) experiment. The experiment will focus on the convection occurring in the rain forest region of Rhondonia (11 S, 62 W) in Brazil. Plans include the implementation of a dual Doppler radar and a four station Advanced Lightning Direction Finder (ALDF) network. The network is located in the vicinity of Ji Parana and will begin to collect data for a TRMM validation field campaign. The lightning network will continue to operate for a minimum of 12-18 months with the assistance of Brazilian scientists.

Lightning Detection Instruments

Jump to...

[ALDF Image]Advanced Lightning Direction Finder
These sensors detect cloud-to-ground lightning strikes and determine their location by triangulation of two or more lines of bearing. An ALDF automatically detects more than 90% of all cloud-to-ground lightning occurring within a range of 100 km. Other lightning, such as cloud-to-cloud and intracloud lightning, is ignored. The National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) is a network of more than 130 of these ALDF sensors.


[LDAR Image]Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR)

Located at the Kennedy Space Center, the LDAR consists of seven antennas that detect electromagnetic pulses at 66 MHz, which allows it to detect 99% of all flashes (both intracloud and cloud-to-ground flashes) within 10 km of the antenna network. The accuracy of source locations is a function of position relative to the receiving array, generally decreasing (particularly along the radial axis with respect to the array center) with distance. The RMS error for LDAR lightning source locations varies from 100 meters inside the network to about 10 km at a range of 90 km (about 1/3 the width of the Florida peninsula).

[KSC FM Image]KSC Electric Field Mill Network

Thirty-one advanced field mills developed by NASA/MSFC are deployed at sites around the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and Cape Canaveral Air Station provide data on lightning activity and surface electric fields induced by charge aloft. This data helps forecasters determine when electric charge aloft may be sufficient to create triggered lightning during launch, and to determine when to issue and cancel lightning advisories and warnings.

[Airborne Electric Field Mill Image]Airborne Electric Field Mill

In several field campaigns, these field mills have been installed on the top and bottom of a DC-8 and an ER-2 aircraft. With this configuration, the field mills are used to measure the vertical component of the electric field as the aircraft flies in the vicinity of electrified clouds. The dynamic range of these instruments extends from the fair weather fields (a few tens of V/m) to large thunderstorm fields (thousands of V/m). Using these field mills, it is possible to detect both intracloud and cloud-to-ground lightning from the abrupt electric field changes in the data. The field mills were developed by NASA/MSFC.

[Airborne Conductivity Probe Image]Airborne Conductivity Probe

During numerous flights, a conductivity probe has been installed on the superpod nose cone of the ER-2 aircraft and has been used to measure the conductivity of the atmosphere. The probe consists of a pair of Gerdien capacitor type sensors so that the contributions to the total conductivity due to positive and negative ions are obtained simultaneously throught each flight. Storm electric currents have been derived using electric field and air conductivity measurements.

[Airborne Optical Pulse Sensor Image]Airborne Optical Pulse Sensor

The optical pulse sensor consists of a photodiode at the focus of a wide angle field-of-view lens, and was used to observe the bright flashes of light produced during a lightning discharge. During the mid 1980s, this instrument was flown on a high altitude aircraft to observe lightning from above cloud top. A bandpass filter was installed at the front of the lens and was used to pass one specific lightning spectral line, such as the neutral atomic oxygen line (777.4 nm) or the neutral atmoic nitrogen line (868.3 nm).

[Broadband Spectrometer Image]Broadband Spectrometer

This instrument is an Ebert spectrometer which was used to measure the spectral characteristics of lightning discharges. The spectral range of this instrument is from below 600 nm to almost 900 nm (infrared spectrum). This instrument was also flown on a high altitude aircraft during the mid 1980s.


The following proposals are in response to NASA Research Announcement NRA-97-MTPE-03:

Interpretation of Lightning Observations for Understanding the Meteorological Properties of Clouds


  • Steven Goodman (MSFC)
  • Ravi Raghavan (USRA)
  • Earle Williams (MIT)
  • Mark Weber (MIT)

The emphasis of this proposed research program is the interpretation of total lightning observations to understand the meteorological properties of clouds. In this context, our focus will be to explore quantifiable relationships between lightning and other cloud and environmental variables. Using these relationships, we will then develop algorithms that can use lightning observations on a global scale to diagnose cloud kinematics, morphology, and storm severity. This improved understanding of the relationships among the processes that lead to the electrification of clouds and subsequent lightning activity is highly desired to better interpret global cloud measurements.

We propose to take advantage of currently available surface and space based data sets to jump start the development, testing, assessment and validation of algorithms that employ total lightning observations. Initial data sets will be acquired at the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) ground truth site in Florida. In 1999, similar multi-sensor data bases (including total lightning) will be available from Huntsville, AL, the Rondonia region of the Brazilian Amazon, and the Kwajalein Atoll region of the Pacific Ocean as part of future validation campaigns. Thus, total lightning and storm observations will be collected from extratropical land, tropical land, and tropical ocean environments. The new knowledge from this study will be applicable to lightning observations acquired from future missions such as the proposed Lightning Mapper on GOES N-P.

Cross-Sensor Validation of the Lightning Imaging Sensor


  • Dennis Boccippio (MSFC)
  • Monte Bateman (USRA)
  • Nilton Renno (University of Arizona)

An effort to perform a detailed, quantitative validation of the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) is being proposed as a collaborative effort between personnel of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC) and the University of Arizona. The focus of the study will be the determination of LIS precision, accuracy, sensitivity (detection efficiency), biases and variance in previously unexplored lightning regimes and problematic observation zones. The investigation will build on preliminary work and lessons learned during validation of the prototype Optical Transient Detector (OTD). The benefits of this study to the Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) program will be the delivery of a well-calibrated, bias free dataset of tropical and mid-latitude total lightning, with specified observation variances (errors). Such a dataset will play an important role in quantifying tropical surface temperature changes and lightning-related NOx emissions, and key rate-related meteorological parameters such as convective mass flux and cirrus anvil detrainment rates, which are difficult to determine by passive (IR and microwave) measurements during rapid flybys.

The specific objectives of this proposal are to: 1) rigorously assess the reduction in LIS detection efficiency due to noise contamination, 2) optimize the existing adaptive noise filters, 3) assess the largely unknown intracloud (IC) flash detection efficiencies of both OTD and LIS, 4) cross-calibrate the OTD and LIS sensors to extend the temporal baseline of global lightning observations, 5) validate and/or improve the flash grouping algorithms currently employed to delineate convective cells, 6) assess the sampling-related variance in observations of global and regional flash rates, and 7) utilize concurrent TRMM ground truth and satellite data and fully validated LIS observations to lay a groundwork for relating observed flash rates to other convective parameters. The proposed work makes extensive use of existing algorithms and methodology developed for OTD, as well as observations from sensors already fielded or planned in other field campaigns.

LIS Validation Studies Using Lightning at the KSC-ER


The ground based electric field mill (FM) network and the Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR) system at the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and USAF Eastern Range (ER) will be used to characterize and validate the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) data set. The validation activities will focus on quantifying and improving the LIS geolocation accuracy and lightning detection efficiency. As part of this activity, an intensive investigation will be made of the characteristics of lightning charges, lightning radio sources, thunderstorm current sources, and theoretical (model) calculations of photon transport inside clouds. Also, measurements of the absolute radiance on the ground will be correlated with LIS. Particular emphasis will be given to possible relationships between the amount of charge involved in a lightning flash (derived from the FM network) and the total optical energy that is measured by the LIS.




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