Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService) is pioneering the first-ever South Pacific-wide lightning detection network in partnership with TOA Systems, Inc. In South Pacific countries, lightning information from the SPLN will assist with forecasting and monitoring of events by National Meteorological Services. Disaster response agencies in these countries will also have an increased ability to mitigate the impacts of lightning through awareness and education.
The South Pacific Lightning Network (SPLN) will provide a new level of lightning awareness to National Meteorological Services and allow disaster response agencies to improve resilience in the Pacific to severe weather events.
With lightning now classified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as an essential climate variable, and with increasing threat of climate change to the region, lightning information from the SPLN will assist with forecasting and monitoring of events by National Meteorological Services. Disaster response agencies will also have an increased ability to mitigate the impacts of lightning through awareness and education.
The first phase of ten lightning sensors was completed in June 2018, with installations in (name the countries – Fiji, Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Cooks Islands, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, etc). Two further phases are planned in 2018 and 2019, and once complete, the SPLN will incorporate 34 sensors.
The network will provide real-time coverage of lightning events to an area encompassing eastern Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, French Polynesia, the Pitcairn Islands and the nations in between.
These new sensors will work in concert with 12 TOA lightning sensors in New Zealand, as well as over 100 sensors operated by TOA across Australia, Asia, North Pacific and over 500 sensors in TOA’s Global Lightning Network.
The SPLN is made possible in part by a grant from the Pacific Fund administered by the French Government. Part of this funding will be used to install sensors at the French Pacific territories of Wallis & Futuna and French Polynesia. The remainder will be used for future maintenance and expansion.
The SPLN is operated and monitored by TOA, with MetService providing engineering and sales support, and is an example of public/private partnership in the name safety, resilience and innovation.
Peter Fisher, MetService’s Business Development Manager (Key Accounts), says:
“This will be the first time many Pacific Island nations have had access to real-time lightning data in their region. At a time when severe weather events are becoming not only more frequent but more severe due to climate change, this data is invaluable to decision-makers and communities. Lightning is a key indicator of severe weather activity and can provide significant advantage in forecasting thunderstorm activity as well as providing vital information for safety preparedness.”
TOA Systems is based in Florida, USA and is a pioneer of lightning detection with over 30 years’ experience in accurately locating and detecting lightning events, providing early warning and lightning awareness solutions.
MetService is the state-owned Meteorological Service of New Zealand, based in Wellington, New Zealand with over 150 years’ meteorological experience.