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Lightning is a brief but intense electrical discharge between positive and negative regions of a thunderstorm. The Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite was designed to study the distribution and variability of total lightning on a global basis. The Optical Transient Detector (OTD) was an earlier lightning detector flying aboard the Microlab-1 spacecraft. The data shown here are compiled from LIS (1998-2002) and OTD (1995-1999) observations. Because each satellite saw only a part of the Earth at any one time, these data use complex algorithms to estimate total flash rate based on the flashes observed and the amount of time the satellite views each area. NOTE: This animation is primarily designed to be used through the Web Mapping Services (WMS) protocol. Each frame in the animation actually represents an accumulation of a number of years of data up through a particular day of the year. Because of a limitation in the WMS protocol, each frame is marked only with a single date representing the last date for which the data was accumulated.
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