Saving lives and improving thunderstorm forecasting in Malaysia

A new Malaysian lightning detection network brings benefits for public weather forecasting, worker safety and commercial operations impacted by lightning events.

Lightning is one of the most dangerous and frequently encountered weather hazards In Malaysia. It takes lives, causes severe injuries, damages vital infrastructure and disrupts operations.

Professor Ir Dr Mohd Zainal Abidin Ab Kadir, a Director of the Centre for Electromagnetic and Lightning Protection Research at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, says that many Malaysians are not aware their country has the ‘third-highest lightning activity’ in the world.

The US National Lightning Safety Institute says Malaysia experiences an average of 180 to 260 thunderstorm days each year, while the Centre for Electromagnetic & Lightning Protection (CELP) says lightning killed 112 and injured 156 people in Malaysia between 2008 and early 2017.

Every year lightning presents risks to workers and public safety, as well as disrupting the operations of:

  • airlines, airports and air traffic control
  • electrified rail services
  • ports and shipping
  • energy generation and distribution utilities
  • communication networks
  • mining companies
  • industries with ignition risks
  • offshore oil & gas
  • construction and infrastructure
  • public outdoor events

Lightning strikes are also a major cause of fallen power lines and trees, wildfires and tyre explosions on earth-moving machinery.

Prompt access to real-time lightning and thunderstorm data is intrinsic to improving both meteorological forecasting and prompt safety alerting. The aim is to minimise loss of lives and livelihoods and mitigate other disruption from electrical storms.

Malaysia is estimated to lose about RM250 million each year in infrastructure damages & business disruptions due to electrical outages from lightning strikes.

The Malaysian high-resolution lightning detection network

MetraWeather Asia and TOA Systems, Inc, with the support of Malaysian partner Riajati Sdn Bhd, are currently installing a new high-resolution lightning detection network.

The network will integrate more than 19 state-of-the-art TOA lighting detection sensors to provide extensive coverage across both East and West Malaysia.

Bryan Lim, Sales Delivery Manager-Asia for MetraWeather says cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strikes are extremely dangerous to the safety of collocated teams working outdoors, workers on airport aprons and people congregating for events in places such as public parks and university campuses.

“Detection of the more common but much lower energy intra-cloud (IC) and/or cloud-to-cloud (CC) lightning is also crucial in providing advanced alerting about potential risks.”

“Real-time detection of IC/CC lightning, when combined with other sources of meteorological data such as satellite imagery, rain radar and numerical modelling, can help forecasters to better understand and accurately categorize events,” says Mr Lim.


About MetraWeather Asia

MetraWeather is a specialist commercial weather company that provides customers in Europe, South East Asia, Australasia and the Pacific with weather guidance, decision-support and actionable weather insights. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited (MetService), New Zealand’s WMO accredited National Meteorological Service (NMS).

About TOA Systems, Inc.

TOA Systems is a pre-eminent vendor of lightning sensors, detection networks and associated data. It has installed more than 600 sensors in over 50 countries. TOA owns and operates, for example, the 250-sensor North American Precision Lightning Network (NAPLN) and the Australian lightning network incorporating over 100 sensors. It also supports networks in Canada, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, the South Pacific and New Zealand. TOA Systems is headquartered in Florida, USA.

About Riajati Sdn Bhd

Riajati is a wholly-owned Bumiputera company based in Kuala Lumpur. Riajati has grown over the years, diversifying its interests into specialised fields including information communication technologies (ICT), meteorological solutions and engineering and system integration.