LIS measures the amount, rate, and radiant energy of global lightning, providing storm-scale resolution, millisecond timing, and high, uniform-detection efficiency; and, it does this without land-ocean bias. While on the TRMM observatory it travelled 7 kilometers every second, or 16,000 miles per hour, and was able to view a point or cloud on Earth for almost 90 seconds. Despite the brief duration, it was long enough to estimate the flashing rate of most storms. The TRMM LIS detection efficiency ranged from 69% near noon to 88% at night. The sensor provides valuable information on data-sparse regions, such as oceans.
“Only LIS globally detects all in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning — what we call total lightning — during both day and night,” said Richard Blakeslee, LIS project scientist at Marshall. “As previously demonstrated by the TRMM mission, better understanding lightning and its connections to weather and related phenomena can provide unique and affordable gap-filling information to a variety of science disciplines including weather, climate, atmospheric chemistry and lightning physics.”