The internet is saturated with websites that give you weather information, and frankly, most of them suck. Very few allow you to see lightning around the world in real-time, and even fewer give you this data for free. But there is one nugget of gold tucked deep in the confines of Europe that gives you the best of the best, all for free.

Blitzortung is a small project run by a handful of people in Germany that connects a network of hundreds of lightning sensors around the world to track lightning strikes within seconds of their striking the surface of the earth. As the site is based in Europe, they have hundreds of sensors concentrated around Germany, Austria, France, and Italy, with fewer in a multitude of other countries. The United States itself has 44 sensors that join a handful in other North and South American countries to keep tabs on our storm activity.

The process is simple (well, sort of). Let's say there's a thunderstorm over Dallas and a brilliant bolt of lightning strikes the center of the city. Most (if not all) of the detectors nearby sense the bolt. Depending on how many sensors detected the bolt, the system can triangulate the location of the lightning to within a few hundred to a few thousand feet of where it struck, and it plots the point on a map. From the strike to plotting it on the map can take as little as four seconds.

Watching the real-time map and listening to the 'click' of each new lightning strike can be mesmerizing if you stare at it long enough. If you'd like to zoom in, they offer the same data superimposed on Google Maps.

Not only does the website let you track lightning in real-time, it keeps an archive to let you see historical lightning activity. For instance, the above map shows all 236,232 lightning strikes that occurred between Monday night (darker colors) and Wednesday night (lighter colors).

The website also keeps daily, monthly, and yearly statistics to help you keep track of how much lightning has occurred and where. The above map shows the total lightning density for this year between January 1 and June 11. North and South America have seen about 4,504,896 lightning strikes so far this year, and the "hot spot" for activity has been the northern Gulf Coast around Mobile and Pensacola, where tens of thousands of lightning strikes occurred every hour for over half a day during a major flash flood event this past April.

France has been the hotbed of lightning activity in Europe so far this year, and it's easy to understand why given their recent bout of severe weather.

Overall, Blitzortung is a pretty cool site to keep track of lightning if you're into that sort of thing. It's a beautiful sight to watch from a safe distance, but watching it strike in real-time online can be just as fun.

If you're an engineering/tech whiz and enjoy computing and electrical projects, Blitzortung is always looking for people to purchase and assemble lightning detector kits to help them expand their network.

[Images via Blitzortung and]