A new lightning index that uses measurements of water vapor in the atmosphere from Global Positioning Systems has improved lead-time for predicting the first lightning strikes from thunderstorms. The index will help greatly aid NASA Space Shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center, Fla, and other commercial and U.S. Department of Defense launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
"Better forecasting and more advance warning of lightning strikes will help reduce the delays or cancellations of shuttle launches from Kennedy Space Center (KSC)," Steven Businger of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, said. Nearly 75% of all space shuttle countdowns between 1981 and 1994 were delayed or scrubbed, with about one-half of these due to weather.
The new Global Positioning System (GPS) Lightning Index combines data on the changing amount of water vapor in the atmosphere from a GPS receiver site with other meteorological data. One GPS receiver is located at the KSC on Floridas east coast.
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