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Ooooh! Newest weather satellite sends back first images using high-tech lightning sensor

Screen shot from GOES-17 showing thunderstorms over the Central Plains (Photo: NOAA)

For West Coast meteorologists, it's been like kids counting the days till Christmas awaiting NOAA's newest GOES-17 weather satellite to begin service.

Monday, we got a glimpse of what's on the horizon.

NOAA has released an animation of the satellite's first shot at tracking lightning across the United States. The new "Geostationary Lightning Mapper" caught storms quickly intensifying in the central Plains on May 9.

The GLM is the first operational lightning mapper flown in geostationary orbit. NOAA says the mapper observes lightning in the Western Hemisphere, giving forecasters an indication of when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm may strengthen quickly and could produce severe weather.

The GOES-17 satellite, launched on March 1, is still in its testing phase, but will eventually move over to the West Coast later this year and provide a watchful eye on our weather with the latest in weather technology.

MORE | West Coast set to get fancy new high-tech weather satellite | Watch: New satellite sees 2,500 lightning strikes over Northwest

Its twin sister, GOES-16, launched in early 2017 and has been operational over the East Coast since last fall, providing meteorologists with incredible detail of the Western Hemisphere's current weather conditions and giving crucial data to forecast models and first responders in emergency situations.

West Coast meteorologists are eagerly awaiting our turn. GOES-17 should become operational by the end of the year.

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