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Colo. State Installs Lightning-Prediction System

timothy posted about 10 years ago | from the hydrogen-blimp-would-be-more-entertaining dept.

Technology 47

s-orbital writes "According to Colorado State's Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU has installed four ThorGuard Lightning Prediction systems for under $25,000 to help prevent a lightning-related death or injury on campus. Colorado has the third highest lightning death rate in the US, and this system provides up to 20 minutes of early warning by 'analyzing the electrostatic field within a two-mile radius of the device. When a set amount of lightning-producing electrostatic buildup is detected, a horn will sound and a yellow strobe light will begin flashing, signaling that people in the area should seek shelter because lightning is imminent.'"

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Hmmmmm (3, Interesting)

Sevn (12012) | about 10 years ago | (#10257443)

I've seen lighting reach out 75 miles to touch a C130.

Re:Hmmmmm (2, Funny)

WarPresident (754535) | about 10 years ago | (#10257997)

I've seen lighting reach out 75 miles to touch a C130.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time
Like tears in rain.

-Apologies to Philip K. Dick

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

bigsteve@dstc (140392) | about 10 years ago | (#10262585)

Hey, are you guys sure that God is still on your side? :-)

Re:Hmmmmm (1)

some guy I know (229718) | about 10 years ago | (#10264046)

I've seen lighting reach out 75 miles to touch a C130.
Even at the speed of light, it would take nearly half a microsecond to reach 75 miles.
That should give you plenty of time to seek shelter.

Thanks Mozilla (4, Funny)

QuiK_ChaoS (190208) | about 10 years ago | (#10257448)

In all the years I have been using tabbed browsing...

As I click the link http://thorguard.com/ [thorguard.com] from above, I scared the crap out of me, and half of the IT department. I love tabbed browsing, Thanks Mozilla...

Re:Thanks Mozilla (1)

dschuetz (10924) | about 10 years ago | (#10257641)

As I click the link http://thorguard.com/ from above, I scared the crap out of me, and half of the IT department.

Why Mozilla doesn't have some kind of mute button is beyond me. There's one bug (24418) that's been tracking people asking about mute and/or audio controls, for like 4 years, but it's never made it into the product.

Day late, dollar short. (3, Interesting)

applemasker (694059) | about 10 years ago | (#10257505)

An excellent idea, but too late for these 30 kids [msn.com] who were injured by a "bolt from the blue" at football practice yesterday. And here I thought it was just an interesting figure of speech. In this case at least, literalism really hurts.

Re:Day late, dollar short. (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 10 years ago | (#10257557)

I'd like to see these systems more widely installed. Lightning related deaths and injuries are surprisingly common at athletic fields. Unfortunately, it usually takes some dead bodies before a detection system is approved.

What? (2, Funny)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | about 10 years ago | (#10258824)

This is all heresy! Systems like this interfere with God's plan. If he can't even get away with a good old fashioned smiting, what has he left?

Re:What? (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 10 years ago | (#10263552)

A huge asteroid or comet?

Re:Day late, dollar short. (1)

jjshoe (410772) | about 10 years ago | (#10258002)

Did you read either article? How is it a day late? The article you linked to is talking about an incident in Texas. I guess i fail to see how installing the lightning detection in colorado any earlier would have helped in the Texas situation.

Professional Golf Tourments... (2, Informative)

north.coaster (136450) | about 10 years ago | (#10258707)

... have used a system like this for several years. With that in mind, I'm not sure why CSU's installation is newsworthy. /Don

Re:Day late, dollar short. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10258856)

Quick, someone get a towel! This guy's heart is really bleeding!

More Deaths? (0, Troll)

hackwrench (573697) | about 10 years ago | (#10257529)

Is is because there's more lightning or are Coloradoans just stupider than moste people?

Re:More Deaths? (4, Informative)

hawkbug (94280) | about 10 years ago | (#10257672)

Obviously is because we're higher up in Colorado, not to mention that the climate here is very condusive for lightning. It's very dry and on a daily basis for the most part we get afternoon showers that move in from the mountains to the eastern slope.

Re:More Deaths? (1)

zoloto (586738) | about 10 years ago | (#10258498)

Not to mention that when people run away from the area, it will generate more static electricity and therefor create a faster lightning strike.

HORN BLARES
Students: RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!
*static charges*
*BZZZZZT*

--students twitch, lying on the ground..

No thanks, I'll sit under a tree with a golf club while you run around.

Re:More Deaths? (1)

Cecil (37810) | about 10 years ago | (#10258946)

Ah, armchair science.

The voltage difference required to push a lightning strike through thousands of feet of air, which is normally quite a good insulator even when it's humid, is many orders of magnitude larger than any large group of human beings could unintentionally create. It would be like pissing in the ocean.

Re:More Deaths? (1)

zoloto (586738) | about 10 years ago | (#10261264)

apparently the attempt at humor failed :P

Maybe its just that... (1)

jangobongo (812593) | about 10 years ago | (#10258929)

...out-of-state visitors are more stupid. Visitors to the Alpine Visitors Center (elevation 11,796 ft) in Rocky Mountain National Park are frequently cautioned about lightning and park rangers tell visitors what the warning signs of an impending strike are and what to do to avoid being killed in that event. Yet visitors are injured and killed by lightning there every year.

Actually according to this web page [lightningsafety.com] Florida had the most lightning related deaths (126) from 1990-2003, Texas (52) was second, and Colorado (39) was third.

Why not... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10257575)

Create a device that can drain the electrostatic energy from the air before it reaches dangerous levels, and then use that energy to power devices?

BTW... Does it seem like Colorado is a popular place around here lately? What with wind power [slashdot.org] yesterday and the electoral college [slashdot.org] on Monday, and now Lightning Detection today...

Why Not (1, Insightful)

TeaQuaffer (809857) | about 10 years ago | (#10257631)

Just install lightning rods [wikipedia.org] all over the campus?

Future News (4, Funny)

Nyhm (645982) | about 10 years ago | (#10257648)

... shortly after deployment of the $25,000 system, it started flashing and was destroyed by lightning.

Colo. State? (0)

SoCalChris (573049) | about 10 years ago | (#10257663)

Wouldn't Colorado be easier to type? Or, if you're just trying to make it blazingly obvious that Colorado is a state, why not "The state of Colorado "?

Re:Colo. State? (1)

wowbagger (69688) | about 10 years ago | (#10257728)

Perhaps because they are talking about Colorado State University, not the state of Colorado, and it is commonplace to abbreviate university names of the form "$foo State University" as "$foo State" or even to abbreviate $foo.

Re:Colo. State? (1)

r00k123 (588214) | about 10 years ago | (#10257764)

"The state of Colorado" would have been fine--had that been what the editor meant.

Colorado State is a university.

Good try though.

Re:Colo. State? (1)

BlurredWeasel (723480) | about 10 years ago | (#10258558)

Well, the website name is www.colostate.edu (because colorado.edu is CU in boulder, those bastards)

Re:Colo. State? (1)

DanTekGeek (740780) | about 10 years ago | (#10259494)

possibly because there is colorado state university, and plain old CU

"In other news.... (2, Funny)

nusratt (751548) | about 10 years ago | (#10257875)

...entrepreneurs are rushing to sell to nearby colleges, a design for a rear-weighted hat which keeps the wearer's eyes pointed toward the sky."

Sheesh, gimme a break -- people can't use common sense to tell when lightning is likely?

Out of the Blue (1)

s-orbital (598727) | about 10 years ago | (#10258363)

In the article, it is mentioned that lightning can travel 60 miles from storm and strike somewhere with "clear blue sky." They also cite this as being responsible for many of the lighning deaths in Colorado.

Re:Out of the Blue (1)

nusratt (751548) | about 10 years ago | (#10258507)

"lightning can ... strike somewhere with "clear blue sky." ... being responsible for many of the lighning deaths"

Nothing will prevent those deaths -- because that's not lightning, it's just God being "playful" with people who have done something to deserve it.

(Just kidding...)

Re:"In other news.... (1)

dacarr (562277) | about 10 years ago | (#10258468)

No, for the same reason you don't always know if the person next to you has been shuffling their feet on the carpet in preparation to ESD on you. You can't necessarily just look at someone/something with the naked eye and tell if it's electrically charged, and if you're seeing arcs around you, it's too late - or you're in a faraday cage.

Re:"You can't necessarily just look" (1)

nusratt (751548) | about 10 years ago | (#10258817)

"You can't necessarily just look at someone/something with the naked eye and tell if it's electrically charged"

I was assuming -- apparently erroneously -- that the weather would clearly indicate a risk of lightning. I've sinced learned that it can come in a "clear" sky.

Well, Mr. Ivory Tower... (2, Informative)

jellisky (211018) | about 10 years ago | (#10258907)

As an atmospheric science graduate student at CSU (for the last 4+ years), I will tell you that common sense around here (while occasionally in short supply) would tell you that you should stay inside from noon to midnight pretty much every day during the summer. Guess I won't be seeing you out and about if you ever move out here.

Why? Colorado's front range lights up with thunderstorms pretty much every day during the summer. The lightning from these, though, typically stays in-cloud, but the bolts that do reach the ground may end up travelling tens of miles from the main storm. And storms that don't even have any evidence of rain hitting the ground may be just as dangerous as those with rain, so simple visible watching may not tell you any thing.

As a storm chaser, I can attest to this first hand. I was watching a beautiful storm in front of me one time. There were a few storms behind me developing at the time, but nothing severe. You can imagine how close I was to pissing my pants when a bolt from the blue... from the storms BEHIND ME... hit no more than a mile behind me.

For some reason, even the most innocent-looking storm out here can drop a bolt from the blue. I don't know what it is about the atmospheric conditions out here that lets this happen, but it does. (Not a lightning expert here... tropical weather for me.)

This system could be useful, but all in all, I think it's probably not a good investment. College students are the worst people in the world when it comes to following safety procedures. But, I applaud the interesting use of technology here, even if it probably won't be useful. But, if it saves one life, hell, $25K for a life could be worth it.

-Jellisky

Re:Well, Mr. Ivory Tower... (1)

nusratt (751548) | about 10 years ago | (#10259197)

"storms that don't even have any evidence of rain hitting the ground may be just as dangerous as those with rain, so simple visible watching may not tell you any thing."

Yes, I've already learned better and admitted my error in intervening posts.
I'd thought perhaps the Colorado problem was just another case of people (like golfers) who should know better but can't be bothered.
Never been there, and didn't RTFA.
Was just being flippant.
My bad.
Bad, bad, bad.

Re:Well, Mr. Ivory Tower... (1)

jellisky (211018) | about 10 years ago | (#10259251)

'Tis fine.

There IS a bit of the people problem, but it's not cut and dry as that out here. People out here get used to the frequent storms, and not all storms seem to drop lightning, so reminding people about lightning dangers is important, too.

Don't worry about it, though. I only noticed your later posts after I posted myself.

-Jellisky

Inevitable Monty Python Quote.. (1)

ewhenn (647989) | about 10 years ago | (#10258369)

run away!
run away!

Re:Inevitable Monty Python Quote.. (1)

DanTekGeek (740780) | about 10 years ago | (#10259469)

im glad to see that my tax dollars are being well spent, when a simple "dont be an dumbass" sign would suffice

Woo CSU! (1)

BlurredWeasel (723480) | about 10 years ago | (#10258531)

Woot 2 CSU Stories in a day! Makes me not feel so bad going to a generic state college rather than...working hard.... -Chris

As a CSU alumnus... (2, Interesting)

Chagatai (524580) | about 10 years ago | (#10259057)

I can say that this is actually quite a handy thing for the school to have deployed on campus, with all of the thunderstorms that pop up in the late summer and fall. I remember one day back in 1996 when I was walking near the library on a semi-cloudy day when a bolt of lightning hit something on campus out of the blue. It had such a loud thunderclap, too, that caused me to hit the ground. The reverberation was awesome, too, bouncing off of some of the foothills. There are still people today who remember this anomaly and where they were because it was so odd. One of these devices could have been handy in that situation.

Re:As a CSU alumnus... (1)

asuui (641361) | about 10 years ago | (#10260327)

But with all of the thunderstorms won't it be going off almost all the time? I used to live in Colorado, and I remember certain times of year where it seemed like there was lightning everyday. Will people actually bother to take shelter, or will it be like how people treat tornado warnings in some places? Hey look lightning is gonna strike here! Lets watch-cool...zap! Another moron bites the dust.

Robert A. Heinlein.once said it (2, Informative)

infonography (566403) | about 10 years ago | (#10262107)

would make a great weapon but the trick was aiming it.

Go Look it up, that's your test for today.

Re: Robert A. Heinlein.once said it (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 10 years ago | (#10262637)

What are you talking about? Lightning prediction systems?

If it's lightning, aiming lightning isn't difficult.

Just use a laser to ionize the air. If you have a powerful laser on a 747 [popsci.com] it makes it easier as you can shoot past a suitable cloud to the target and make it look like the target was hit by an "act of God".

You could use a maser to ionize the air too. Not sure if such a maser beam would be invisible to the naked eye.

Re: Robert A. Heinlein.once said it (1)

some guy I know (229718) | about 10 years ago | (#10264070)

Not sure if such a maser beam would be invisible to the naked eye.
Since the "M" in MASER stands for "microwave", the answer is that the beam itself would be invisible to the naked eye.
(Some effects of the beam, such as heated air, water vapor, or dust particles, may be visible.)

OEM lightning detection (1)

billcopc (196330) | about 10 years ago | (#10262370)

- Hey Bubba, it's raining. Looks like a thunderstorm.

- Hey Cletus, maybe we should go hide under the truck.

If Bubba and Cletus know that lightning usually strikes during a big rain storm, then these campus monkeys should know better. If they insist on having a multimillion dollar detection device, I'm willing to help their cause by living in a luxurious condo 24/7 with a 100mbit link to the outside world and I will gladly phone them whenever I hear a thunderstorm. You can wire the millions to my paypal account.

Re:OEM lightning detection (1)

sribe (304414) | about 10 years ago | (#10262838)

If Bubba and Cletus know that lightning usually strikes during a big rain storm, then these campus monkeys should know better. If they insist on having a multimillion dollar detection device, I'm willing to help their cause by living in a luxurious condo 24/7 with a 100mbit link to the outside world and I will gladly phone them whenever I hear a thunderstorm. You can wire the millions to my paypal account.

Yeah, I know your post is partly in jest. But I also get the feeling that you have no freaking clue how fast the weather can change out here when the winds around the Continental Divide shift a bit. Like a nice sunny summer day, then <30 minutes later hail destroying roofs and punching fist-sized holes through skylights. Happened to me last month, the middle of August--true story.

Re:OEM lightning detection (1)

billcopc (196330) | about 10 years ago | (#10289818)

Well then, may I suggest your city invest in an atmospheric umbrella ? =)

(what movie was that from ?)

Get an AM radio (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | about 10 years ago | (#10262535)

Tune to a strong station, and listen for bursts of static. You'll have a good one hour warning there's lightning approaching.
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