NLDN 2008-2017 Flash Density Map sq mi
Vaisala National Lightning Detection Network

National Lightning Detection Network NLDN

Vaisala's U.S. National Lightning Detection Network® (NLDN) is the most scientifically accurate and reliable lightning information system, monitoring total lightning activity across the continental United States, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has been proven to deliver unrivalled performance with excellent location accuracy and detection efficiency, and is the only U.S. network capable of both detecting cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning while, at the same time, correctly differentiating between the two.

Major government agencies, municipalities, private companies and universities have chosen NLDN data as their primary source for lightning information, including the National Weather Service, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy. Most large electric power utilities use the NLDN cloud to ground accuracy to help manage the reliability of their transmission and wind power assets.


  • Warnings Weather forecasting: Warn the public about severe weather conditions and lightning risk
  • Electric power industry: Pre-position field crews for approaching storm threats, and determine the location of faults in the power lines, or damage to wind turbines
  • Air traffic control: Re-route aircraft around hazardous thunderstorms
  • Airports: Suspend high-risk activities like fueling during lightning threats
  • Mining: Seek shelter to increase safety while minimizing downtime
  • Insurance and arson: Investigate lightning as the cause of property damage or fire
  • Power-sensitive manufacturing and processing operations: Prepare for storm-caused power outages by switching to back-up power early
  • Hazardous materials handling: Warn personnel working near explosives and flammable materials to evacuate
  • Forestry: Dispatch crews to suspected fire starts for more successful initial attack
  • Golf and outdoor recreation: Warn players to seek safety from storms
  • Schools and outdoor events: Warn students, concert goers, festival visitors to go indoors before the storm arrives
  • Launch facilities: Monitor for safest weather conditions for shuttle and satellite launches


Lightning Data Information

The NLDN® dataset product includes delivery of highest quality lightning data in areas covering the continental United States. The lightning data includes cloud flash information and cloud-to-ground stroke and flash information.

The lightning data file provides the following information (as a minimum):

  • Date and Time (UTC with milliseconds accuracy)
  • Latitude and Longitude (location)
  • Error Ellipse with major and minor semi axis (km)
  • Peak amplitude (kA)
  • Polarity (+/-)
  • Type of event: Cloud or Cloud to Ground designation

Lightning Data Format

The NLDN® data can be provided in various formats, including but not limited to the following:

  • Binary (proprietary Type 97)
  • XML
  • Others as requested such as KML

Lightning Data Delivery Mechanism

The NLDN® provides the fastest delivery of high quality lightning data over the continental United States. The NLDN® data can be delivered in real-time (less than 15 seconds latency), near real-time (>1 minute bins) or in archive format (>24 hours). The delivery mechanism is via satellite, secure shell Ethernet/internet (TCP/IP), FCP, or ‘NOAA’ port.

NLDN® Network Specifications

  • Thunderstorm detection efficiency near 100%
  • Cloud-to-Ground flash detection efficiency greater than 95%
  • Cloud-to-Cloud flash detection efficiency of 50-60%
  • Cloud-to-Ground vs. Cloud-to-Cloud classification accuracy of 85-90%
  • Median location accuracy of <200m
  • Sensor network uptimes over 99.9%
  • Data center availability greater than 99.9%
  • Event timing precision of 0.5 microsecond RMS
  • Accurate peak current measurements with a median error of better than 15%
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Beneficios clave

Warn the public about and professionals of severe weather conditions and lightning risk
Prepare for storm-caused power outages by switching to back-up power early
Investigate lightning as the cause of property damage or fire