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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 density (number of flashes per square kilometer per year) based on the flashes observed and the amount of time the satellite views each area.
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