Cold temperatures in Alaska

January 19th, 2017

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

A NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image (above) showed the signature of cold air (violet colors) settling into river valleys and other low-elevation terrain areas across the cloud-free interior of Alaska at 1916 UTC (10:16 am local time) on 18 January 2017. Note that there was a layer of clouds (warmer cyan colors) over much of the North Slope of Alaska; these clouds were acting to limit strong surface radiational cooling, with resulting surface air temperatures only as cold as the -20s F. This AVHRR image was about 1 hour before the low temperature at Fairbanks International Airport (PAFA) dropped to -51ºF (-46ºC) — the first low of -50ºF or colder at that location since 31 December 1999 (-53ºF). While these were certainly cold temperatures, in general most were several degrees warmer than the daily record lows for 18 January:

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

Closer views centered on Bettles (above) and on Tanana (below) further highlighted the influence of terrain on the pattern of surface infrared brightness temperatures.

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

A comparison of re-mapped 1-km resolution NOAA-18 and “4-km” resolution GOES-15 (GOES-West) Infrared Window imagery (below) demonstrated the spatial resolution advantage of “Low Earth Orbit” (Polar-orbiting) satellites over Geostationary satellites, especially for high-latitude regions such as Alaska. As this plot shows, the true spatial resolution of a “4-km” GOES-15 Infrared image pixel over the interior of Alaska — where that satellite’s viewing angle or “zenith angle” from the Equator is about 74 degrees — is actually closer to 16 km. For the “2-km” Infrared imagery that will be provided by the GOES-R series ABI instrument, the spatial resolution over the interior of Alaska will be closer to 8 km.

NOAA-18 vs GOES-15 Infrared Window images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 vs GOES-15 Infrared Window images [click to enlarge]

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NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

The cold continued across much of Alaska on 19 January, as seen on a NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image at 1519 UTC or 4:19 am local time (above). However with a lack of cloud cover over the central portion of the North Slope, surface air temperatures were much colder (in the -40s F) compared to the -20s F that were seen there on the previous day.

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

As was shown on the previous day, closer views centered on Bettles (above) and on Tanana (below) further highlighted the influence of terrain on the pattern of surface infrared brightness temperatures. On this day a layer of clouds (highlighted by the warmer cyan colors) covered the far eastern portion of the Tanana image below — note that surface temperatures in the Fairbanks area beneath these clouds were only as cold as the -30s F. Farther to the west, which remained cloud-free, the minimum temperature at Tanana was -59ºF.

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

Time series plots of surface weather conditions at Fairbanks, Tanana and Bettles during the 18-19 January period are shown below. Note that the surface visibility was periodically restricted 1 statute mile or less, due to ice fog, at all 3 locations.

Surface weather conditions at Fairbanks [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Fairbanks [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Tanana [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Tanana [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Bettles [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Bettles [click to enlarge]

Atmospheric river events bring heavy precipitation to California

January 13th, 2017

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

A series of 3 atmospheric river events brought heavy rainfall and heavy snowfall to much of California during the first 10 days of January 2017 (NWS San Francisco/Monterey | WeatherMatrix blog). Hourly images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (above; also available as a 33 Mbyte animated GIF) showed the second and third of these atmospheric river events during the 06 January11 January 2017 period, which were responsible for the bulk of the heavy precipitation; these 2 events appear to have drawn moisture northeastward from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)..

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A relatively cloud-free day on 13 January provided a good view of the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay regions. A comparison of Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared  “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images (above) showed that snow cover in the higher terrain of the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevada appeared darker in the Snow/Ice band image (since snow and ice are strong absorbers of radiation at the 2.1 µm wavelength) — but water is an even stronger absorber, and therefore appeared even darker (which allowed the areas of flooding along the Sacramento River and its tributaries to be easily identified). A similar type of 1.6 µm Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” Band imagery will be available from the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series, beginning with GOES-16.

Better detail of the flooded areas of the Sacramento River and its tributaries was seen in 250-meter resolution false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) imagery from the MODIS Today site — water appears as darker shades of blue, while snow appears as shades of cyan (in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds, which appear as shades of white). In the corresponding MODIS true-color image, rivers and bays with high amounts of turbidity (tan shades) were evident; the offshore flow of sediment from a few rivers could also be seen.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

 

Portland, Oregon heavy snow event

January 11th, 2017

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

A surface low moving inland (3-hourly surface analyses) helped to produce widespread rain and snow across much of Oregon and southern Washington during the 10 January11 January 2017 period. 4-km resolution GOES-15 (GOES-West) Infrared images (above) and Water Vapor images (below) showed the development of a deformation band that helped to focus and prolong moderate to heavy snowfall over the Portland, Oregon area (accumulations | historical perspective). The GOES-15 images are centered at Portland International Airport (station identifier KPDX).

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

1-km resolution GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) during the last few hours of daylight on 10 January revealed the shadowing and textured signature of numerous embedded convective elements moving inland, which were helping to enhance precipitation rates (and even produce thundersnow at a few locations, a phenomenon which is very unusual for the Pacific Northwest).

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

===== 12 January Update =====

As clouds cleared in the wake of the storm, a comparison of 375-meter resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images viewed using RealEarth (below) revealed the extent of the snow cover; snow appears as shades of cyan in the false-color image, in contrast to clouds which appear as shades of white. [Note: with 5 inches of snow remaining on the ground, a new record low temperature was set in Portland on 13 January]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

The fresh snowfall was also apparent in a 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 false-color RGB image (below) along the south face of Mount Hood (located about 98 miles or 158 km east of Portland). The ski slopes of Timberline Lodge and  Mount Hood Meadows received 13-14 inches of new snow during this event; the snow base depth at Timberline was greater than the average amount for this time of year.

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to play zoom-in animation]

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to play zoom-in animation]

Oil well fire in Utah

January 6th, 2017

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Visible (0.63 µm) images (above) showed a small, short-lived black cloud that formed south/southwest of Vernal (station identifier KVEL) in northeastern Utah on 06 January 2017. This feature was the result of a fire at an oil well site (media report | well location) that apparently started around 11:30 am local time (1830 UTC); the black cloud from the burning oil tanks — which was first apparent on the 1930 UTC visible image — stood out well against the snow-covered ground. The initial northwestward transport of the smoke plume was consistent with lower-tropospheric winds in Grand Junction, Colorado rawinsonde data at 07 January/00 UTC, which showed southeasterly winds as high as 784 hPa (2185 meters or 7169 feet above ground level). The sounding profile also showed that this height was the top of a well-defined temperature inversion, which acted as a cap to prevent the smoke from reaching higher altitudes (photo).

GOES-13 (GOES-East) Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) also displayed the dark smoke plume. The viewing angles from the 2 satellites were similar (~53 degrees from GOES-15 vs ~57 degrees from GOES-13), but the time sampling was slightly better from GOES-15 (due to the extra “SUB-CONUS” scan images at :11 and :41 minutes nearly every hour). Image frequency will be even better with the GOES-R series of satellites (beginning with GOES-16), with routine scans every 5 minutes; the visible image spatial resolution will also be improved (to 0.5 km, vs 1.0 km with the current GOES).

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

MODIS Visible (0.645 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images from a 2036 UTC overpass of the Aqua satellite (below) showed the black smoke cloud in the Visible, but there was no evidence of a fire “hot spot” in the Shortwave Infrared (the media report indicated that the fire was extinguished about 2 hours after it started, which would have been around or just before the time of the MODIS images). On the Infrared Window image, the smoke plume actually did exhibit a slightly colder (darker blue color enhancement) signature, which is unusual since conventional fire and wildfire smoke is normally transparent to thermal radiation.

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.645 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.645 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

A view of the 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image from the MODIS Today site is shown below.

Aqua MODIS true-color image at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color image at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]