Report a wildfire: If you see a wildfire in a forested area call 310-FIRE (3473)

Blue grey clouds with white lightning bolts

Daily lightning map

During wildfire season, the daily lightning map is updated daily, showing all detected lightning strikes during the previous 24 hours, colour coded by time periods.

See the daily lightning map


Alberta Wildfire operates a lightning detection system developed by VAISALA. The system enables fire managers to monitor cloud-to-ground lightning activity on a provincial basis.

  • Partnerships

    The Government of Alberta partners with the following outside agencies to upgrade the provincial lightning detection network and share the real-time data:

    • Alberta Electrical System Operator
    • Altalink
    • Fortis
    • 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.

  • Principles

    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.

How we detect lightning

The primary components of the LLP lightning detection system are:

  • lightning sensors
  • CP7000
  • display systems
  • Lightning sensors

    Lightning sensor analyzer map (JPG, 68 KB)

    Raw lightning data is received and processed by a sophisticated system. The lightning sensor is the key component of this complex system. The lightning waveform is detected through 3 antennae:

    • flat plate electrical field
    • GPS receiver
    • vertical orthogonal loop

    As the waveform passes through the antennae, electrical currents are induced and channelled to the processing electronics. The waveform is then analyzed according to return stroke peak energy rise time and other criteria. Non-lightning waveforms such as radio transmissions are filtered out by this procedure.

    When a valid lightning signal is detected, the station records its:

    • exact time
    • intensity
    • number of return strokes
    • polarity (negative or positive)
    • true bearing from the station are recorded

    Dedicated communication lines to the CP7000 then transmit all the data.

  • CP7000

    The CP7000 processes the sensor data to determine lightning locations. It also continuously monitors the status of the sensors and provides synchronization between their internal clocks.

    The CP7000 requires data from only 2 sensors to determine a specific flash location. The CP7000 can determine which of the system’s sensors have detected the same flash by comparing the time of the event recorded at each sensor.

    The time coincident sensor data are then analyzed to determine the latitude/longitude of the flash. The CP7000 distributes the location data to the various display systems throughout the province.

  • Display system

    The Forestry Division uses PC-based display software located at the Alberta Wildfire Coordination Centre (AWCC) and at each of the Forest Area Fire Centres. Fire managers can monitor current lightning activity in real time on the display, and they can print hard copy maps for use by aerial patrols.


For questions about weather data, forecasts and observations:
Email: [email protected]

Forest area office contacts

Information line: 1-866-394-3473 (FYI-FIRE)
Media inquiries: 780-420-1968
Email: [email protected]

Download the Alberta Wildfire app

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