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A Radar Alternative Based on Total Lightning Detection

While radar has proven an invaluable tool in weather forecasting, alerting and research, gaps in coverage exist due to geographic limitations of the technology. Additionally, many areas of the world lack the financial resources and technical expertise to deploy, operate and maintain a radar solution.

How Does PulseRad Work?

PulseRad is enabled by the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network, the world's largest lightning network and the only one that comprehensively measures both cloud-to-ground and in-cloud lightning on a global scale. The combination of in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning is critical to establishing an accurate correlation between lightning activity and radar reflectivity.

Using complex algorithms that correlate total lightning flash rates to radar reflectivity, PulseRad provides forecasters with an interactive map of convective weather, and in the future non-convective weather, in places where traditional radar coverage is often incomplete or nonexistent. Distinct algorithms for different climate zones (mountainous, tropical, subtropical) within a forecast area are seamlessly integrated into the map to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Key Benefits:

Interactive Storm Map

PulseRad provides a proxy radar map of convective storms. Lightning cell tracking is used to identify storm cells and correlate the Total Lightning flash rate within a cell with radar reflectivity. The resulting map looks similar to radar and uses the same units as radar (dBz) for easy interpretation.

Dangerous Storm Indicator

PulseRad highlights the potential for dangerous storms that may contain damaging winds, large hail, increased lightning and tornadoes, including in places where radar coverage is limited or not available.

Advanced Warning & Nowcasting

Continuous proxy radar coverage updating every minute enables advanced warning and nowcasting of building storms. In contrast, traditional radar typically updates every four to six minutes. PulseRad can be used in conjunction with Earth Networks Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts, which are issued when there is a high frequency of lightning detected by the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network, to ensure accurate alerting with increased lead times.

Ocean and Mountain Coverage

PulseRad shows storms over oceans while traditional radar is limited in coverage to generally less than 300 miles from the land-based radar site. PulseRad also sees storms embedded within mountainous regions, providing critical information that traditional radar may not capture due to the challenging topography.

Flood and Drought Assessment

PulseRad provides real-time monitoring for potential flooding and drought through correlation of dBr ranging from 0-200 flashes/minute, and dBz, ranging from 0-75 decibels. In conjunction with data from the Earth Networks Weather Network, PulseRad provides a more complete picture of rainfall rates and accumulated precipitation.

Flexible System Design, Lower Cost

PulseRad leverages easily configurable lightning sensors scalable to any geography to provide gap-filling and extended range coverage with reduced operational complexity and low life cycle cost. Both up-front and operational costs are more affordable than traditional radar, which is often expensive to install and operate.


Verifying the accuracy of PulseRad technology: Accumulated precipitation as estimated by PulseRad for July 2011 (top) as compared to National Weather Service observed precipitation (bottom) for July 2011. Demonstrates the accuracy of PulseRad algorithms that correlate lightning flash rate to radar reflectivity.


Animation of daily accumulated precipitation for Aug. 18-19, 2011, as estimated by the Earth Networks PulseRad radar alternative based on total lightning detection. Watch the video.