The Forestry Division operates a lightning detection system developed by VAISALA. The system enables fire managers to monitor
cloud-to-ground lightning activity on a provincial basis.
Principles of Lightning Detection
The system uses a unique characteristic of cloud-to-ground lightning—its waveform—to accurately differentiate it from cloud-to-cloud
discharges and calculate its location.
The initiation of the cloud-to-ground strike releases an intense, short burst of electrical energy. This rapid burst of
energy travels through the atmosphere much as radio waves do. The most unique characteristic of the waveform is its extremely
rapid rise to peak energy.
This distinctive feature of cloud-to-ground lightning provides the means for real-time detection. The sensors also use time
of arrival of the lightning signature and GPS location to accurately determine the position.
The primary components of the LLP lightning detection system are:
- Lightning Sensors
- Display Systems
Alberta Lightning Detection Partnership
Forestry Division developed a partnership to upgrade the provincial lightning detection network and to share the real-time
data with these outside agencies:
- Alberta Electrical System Operator
- ATCO Electric
- Parks Canada
In addition, real-time, raw data is shared with the Northwest Territories Department of Renewable Resources to enhance the
capabilities of the networks operated by both agencies.
Various data analysis has been performed on our historical lightning data, which extends back to 1983. The Lightning Occurrence
Map for 1992-1996 has been quite popular. Future endeavours involve overlaying topography on this map and expanding the
data to include all the years available.
For questions about lightning detection, contact PFFC Weather Section at:
Updated: May 26, 2022