Evaluation of the performance characteristics of the lightning imaging sensor

Daile Zhang, Kenneth L. Cummins, Phillip Bitzer, William J. Koshak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) that was on board the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite captured optical emissions produced by lightning. In this work, we quantify and evaluate the LIS performance characteristics at both the pixel level of LIS events and contiguous clusters of events known as groups during a recent 2-yr period. Differences in the detection threshold among the four quadrants in the LIS pixel array produce small but meaningful differences in their optical characteristics. In particular, one LIS quadrant (Q1, X ≥ 64; Y ≥ 64) detects 15%-20% more lightning events than the others because of a lower detection threshold. Sensitivity decreases radially from the center of the LIS array to the edges because of sensor optics. The observed falloffbehavior is larger on orbit than was measured during the prelaunch laboratory calibration and is likely linked to changes in cloud scattering pathlength with instrument viewing angle. Also, a two-season comparison with the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) has uncovered a 5-7-km north-south LIS location offset that changes sign because of periodic TRMM yaw maneuvers. LIS groups and flashes that had any temporally and spatially corresponding NLDN reports (i.e., NLDN reported the radio signals from the same group and/or from other groups in the same flash) tended to be spatially larger and last longer (only for flashes) than the overall population of groups/flashes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1015-1031
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Atmospheric electricity
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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