How to improve the visualisation of monthly ATD lightning activity data from the Met Office

June 2020 lighting flashes
Courtesy of UKMO

This has got to be one of the worst examples of a map of climate statistics that you will ever see. It attempts to show every flash of lightning that occurred during June 2020, and believe me that’s an awful lot of lightning flashes overlayed one on top of the other to produce this complete mess of a chart. The only thing that you can say with any real confidence is that June 2020 was a very thundery month, particularly across the Midlands, apart from that there’s very little else that you can glean with any real precision from it.

If I had access to Met Office ATD lightning data, and was tasked to produce a map of lightning activity like this, I would write an application that filtered the position of each strike keeping a running total in a simple two dimensional integer array for each 0.1° x 0.1° location. I think that by doing this it would be easy and effective to then produce a colour contoured frequency chart of lightning activity, and certainly a vast improvement on what is done at the moment. It was always something I was always keen on doing when I worked in the visualisation team at the Met Office, to help forecasters in real time during thundery weather like we’ve been experiencing this month.

Simply being the custodians of the nations climate data such as this, and doing very little with it, is not really acceptable in this day and age, especially when they covet this data so much and squirrel it away for no one else to make use of. Perhaps the Met Office are worried that if they do free up the data, people like me will come along and do something rather more innovative with it to to bring it alive.

Courtesy of UKMO
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