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The limits of datalink zap.

To decide if sferics is worth the expense for your mission, you need to understand how datalink differs from sferics and the lighting products you're might be receiving via datalink.

First things first: Quality sferics gear displays most lightning activity in real time throughout the life cycle of a thunderstorm. Real-time depiction is the key because by the time satellite delivered lightning data makes its way to your screen, the storm you're tracking may much further developed, moved or maybe even dissipating. A skilled user can combine the information of on-board sferics and satellite-delivered NEXRAD to build a much more complete picture of the weather right now. Datalink lightning can reinforce and clarify the picture you're getting from satellite NEXRAD, but it's subject to much the same limitations. There's also something to be said for keeping some storm detection that doesn't rely on receiving a message from space.


XM Satellite Weather datalink delivers data derived from the National Lightning Detection Network displayed in four-km resolution. (You can see the grid pattern in the image below.) This is only cloud-to-ground lightning strikes that might be as much as 30 minutes old by the time it makes its way to your display. So if real-time lightning data is gotta-have data for your flying, then a sferics system is your only choice.


WSI's lightning data is born from the Global Lightning Network, a comprehensive source that allows WSI to depict both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground strikes as they are observed (these different types aren't, however, differentiated on the display). WSI admits there is a few minutes' delay due to the entire processing and transmission frequency of the network as a whole.

You'll need Avidyne's MLB-600 datalink receiver to play WSI weather, but that might be worth it if you like the enhanced lightning. WSI throws other products in the mix for detecting convection including a cloud-top image, which can be filtered to show cloud tops at your current altitude and above, a radar summary product, showing the highest tops from each cell, and convective SIGMETs and PIREPs.

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Title Annotation:Informed Buyer
Publication:The Aviation Consumer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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