Lake effect snow band over Lake Michigan

February 26th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the development and motion of a long single-band lake effect cloud feature over Lake Michigan on 26 February 2015. Snowfall from this band helped to boost total event accumulations (including other lake effect snow bands on the previous day) as high as 8 inches in the Chicago area, bringing this to the 3rd snowiest February on record there.

A comparison of the 18:39 UTC Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image with the corresponding false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) is shown below. On the RGB image, snow, ice, and ice crystal clouds appear as varying shades of pink to red — and it can be seen that portions of the lake effect cloud band looked to be glaciated. Supercooled water droplet clouds appear as varying shades of white on this type of snow/ice-vs-cloud discrimination RGB image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and False-color RGB image (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and False-color RGB image (click to enlarge)

The 18:39 UTC Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image (below) showed that cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were in the -20 to -30º C range (cyan to dark blue color enhancement) along the entire length of the lake effect cloud band, which also suggested that glaciation was likely.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image (click to enlarge)

Great Lakes surface geographical outlines evident on water vapor imagery

February 23rd, 2015
GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

A cold and dry arctic air mass (morning minimum temperatures) was in place over the Great Lakes region on 23 February 2015. This arctic air mass was sufficiently cold and dry throughout the atmospheric column to allow the outlines of portions of the surface geography of the Great Lakes to be seen on GOES-13 (GOES-East) 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (above; click image to play animation).

In addition to the commonly-used 4-km resolution 6.5 µm water vapor channel on the GOES Imager instrument, there are also three 10-km resolution water vapor channels on the GOES Sounder instrument (centered at 6.5 µm, 7.0 µm, and 7.4 µm). A 4-panel comparison of these water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation) provides the visual indication that each water vapor channel is sensing radiation from different layers at different altitudes — for example, the surface geographical outlines of the Great Lakes are best seen with the Sounder 7.4 µm (bottom left panels) and the Imager 6.5 µm (bottom right panels) water vapor channels.

GOES-13 Sounder 6.5 µm, 7.0 µm, 7.4 µm, and Imager 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder 6.5 µm, 7.0 µm, 7.4 µm, and Imager 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

An inspection of GOES Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting function plots (below) helps to diagnose the altitude and depth of the layers being sensed by each of the individual water vapor channels at a variety of locations. For example, the air mass over Green Bay, Wisconsin was cold and very dry (with a Total Precipitable Water value of 0.87 mm or 0.03 inch), which shifted the altitude of the various water vapor channel weighting functions to very low altitudes; this allowed surface radiation from the contrasting land/water boundaries to “bleed up” through what little water vapor was present in the atmosphere, and be sensed by the GOES-13 water vapor detectors. In contrast, the air mass farther to the south over Lincoln, Illinois was a bit more more moist, especially in the middle/upper troposphere (with a Total Precipitable Water value of 4.20 mm or 0.17 inch) — this shifted the altitude of the water vapor channel weighting functions to much higher altitudes (to heights that were closer to those calculated using a temperature/moisture profile based on the US Standard Atmosphere).

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting function plots for Green Bay WI, Lincoln IL, and the US Standard Atmosphere

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting function plots for Green Bay WI, Lincoln IL, and the US Standard Atmosphere

In addition to the temperature and/or moisture profile of the atmospheric column, the other factor which controls the altitude and depth of the layer(s) being detected by a specific water vapor channel is the satellite viewing angle (or “zenith angle”); a larger satellite viewing angle will shift the altitude of the weighting function to higher levels in the atmosphere. Recall that the water vapor channel is essentially an Infrared (IR) channel — it generally senses the mean temperature of a layer of moisture or clouds located within the middle to upper troposphere. In this case, the sharp thermal contrast between the cold land surfaces surrounding the warmer Great Lakes was able to be seen, due to the lack of sufficient water vapor at higher levels of the atmosphere to attenuate or block the surface thermal signature.

The new generation of geostationary satellite Imager instruments (for example, the AHI on Himawari-8 and the ABI on GOES-R) feature 3 water vapor channels which are similar to those on the current GOES Sounder, but at much higher spatial and temporal resolutions.

On a separate — but equally interesting — topic: successive intrusions of arctic air over the region allowed a rapid growth of ice in the waters of Lake Michigan. A 15-meter resolution Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed a very detailed picture of ice floes along the western portion of the lake, as well as a patch of land-fast ice in the far southern end of the lake.

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image (click to enlarge)

The motion of the band of ice floes along the western  edge of Lake Michigan was evident in 1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) — along the east coast of Wisconsin, southwesterly winds gusting to around 20 knots were acting to move the ice floes away from the western shoreline of Lake Michigan.

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

Mesovortex over Lake Ontario

February 17th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click to play animation) revealed the presence of a mesocale vortex (“mesovortex”) propagating eastward across the ice-free waters of western Lake Ontario on on 17 February 2015. At the beginning of the animation, also note that there were numerous “hole punch clouds” seen in the stratus cloud deck that covered the western Lake Ontario region during the early morning hours; these holes were likely caused by aircraft inbound/outbound from the Toronto International Airport — particles in jet engine exhaust act as ice nuclei, causing supercooled water droplets to turn into larger, heavier ice particles which then fall out of the cloud to create holes (sometimes described as “fall streaks” due to their appearance).

A closer view using a sequence of MODIS and VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC RealEarth web map server site is shown below. There was a significant amount of ice in the northeastern section of Lake Ontario, as well as a ring of offshore ice around other parts of the lake.

MODIS and VIIRS true-color images

MODIS and VIIRS true-color images

A comparison of the 16:31 UTC Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and the corresponding Sea Surface Temperature product (below) showed that SST values in the ice-free portions of the mesovortex path were generally in the 30 to 34º F  range.

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image and Sea Surface Temperature product

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image and Sea Surface Temperature product

More on the GOES-13 Imager Co-Registration Error

February 10th, 2015

The longwave infrared (10.7 µm) and shortwave infrared (3.9 µm) channels on GOES-13 have been shown in the past to have poor co-registration, meaning that the sensors are not viewing the same pixel at the same time. This error can lead to false signals in (for example) the IR Brightness Temperature Difference product that has historically been used to detect fog and low stratus. The error can propagate to other products as well, such as GOES-R IFR Probabilities (a data fusion product used to detect fog). The error is most obvious along north-south shorelines.

The figure below (Courtesy Tony Schreiner, SSEC/CIMSS) shows differences averaged over 6 pixels near the eastern shore of northern Lake Superior.  The orange line (labeled ‘Original’) represents differences arising from the operational algorithm used before November 2014.  Note that at 0700 UTC for this date and (clear) location (0600 UTC Surface Map) the brightness temperature difference nevertheless showed a negative value because the 10.7 µm pixel was over the cold lake and the 3.9 µm pixel was over warmer land. Shoreline on the western side of the lake would have a positive value: there, the 10.7 µm pixel would be over warm land and the 3.9 µm pixel (co-registered too far to the east) would be over cold water. This positive signal is consistent with fog detection.


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In November 2014, NESDIS implemented a fix to mitigate the co-registration issue (Link). One-pixel shifts were applied to the shortwave infrared (3.9 µm) data to force a better alignment. The red line in the figure above (labeled ‘Current Ops’) shows brightness temperature differences that occurred when that fix was used; a one-pixel shift occurred, usually around 0700 and 1700 UTC, and that shift reduced the average error. However, it also introduced a phenomena of fog signals appearing (or disappearing) quickly as the shift occurred. The animation below shows high clouds clearing in a small region over the Lake Michigan shoreline east of Green Bay; a fog signal appears suddenly at 0700 UTC. Similarly, in this toggle over Baja California, fog is indicated on the western coastline of Baja at 0630 UTC (before the pixel shift) and on the eastern/southern coastline of Baja at 0700 UTC (after the pixel shift). Imagery over the St. Lawrence shows fog/low clouds along the south shore of Anticosti Island in the mouth of the St. Lawrence at 0630 UTC; at 0700 UTC, that indication of fog is gone, but it has appeared along the western shore of the St. Lawrence River.

Reg_11-3.9_Sat_20150204_0545_0800

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference (10.7 -3.9), 4 February 2015, 0545 – 0800 UTC (Click to enlarge)

The red line in the figure above also shows a shift at 1700 UTC, and that shift is apparent in data as well, as shown in the brightness temperature difference product, below, north of Lake Superior. The apparent shift occurs in the 1700 UTC image.

Reg_11-3.9_Sat_20150208_1630_1700

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference, 1630, 1645 and 1700 UTC on 8 February 2015 (Click to enlarge)

Between the 1515 and 1545 UTC imagery on 9 February 2015, a software change was implemented by NESDIS (link), and that now operational software is represented by the green line (labeled ‘Resample’) in the figure above. Rather than a step function change, a smoothly varying change is applied to the co-registration over the course of the day. This has reduced the obvious changes in brightness temperature difference fields that occurred between 0645 and 0700 and between 1645 and 1700 UTC. Consider the two animations below (Courtesy Jim Nelson, SSEC/CIMSS). In both, the former operational technique (the red line in the figure above) is on the left and the current operational technique (the green line in the figure above) is on the right. The operational change has certainly eliminated the jump that was occurring at 0700 and 1700 UTC.

GOES13_BTD_0645_0700_08_09Feb2015

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference fields, 0645 and 0700 UTC on 9 February (Left) and 10 February (Right)

GOES13_BTD_1645_1700_08_09Feb2015

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference fields, 1645 and 1700 UTC on 8 February (Left) and 9 February (Right)

Note that even the green line in the figure up top shows errors approaching 1 C at times during the day (and that may change over the course of the year). It is therefore still possible to find cases in which the brightness temperature difference field from GOES erroneously indicates fog or low stratus. The toggle below shows data from 10 February, after the operational change. A fog/stratus signal is indicated by the GOES Brightness Temperature Difference product along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan; however, there is no signature of fog/stratus on the VIIRS Day Night Band and brightness temperature difference (11.35µm – 3.74µm) imagery from Suomi NPP. As always, a positive indication of a phenomena in data should always be verified with other data types.

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference (10.7 µm - 3.9 µm), Suomi NPP Day Night Band (0.70 µm) and Suomi NPP Brightness Temperature Difference (11.35 µm - 3.74 µm), 10 February 2015, 0715 UTC (Click to animate)

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference (10.7 µm – 3.9 µm), Suomi NPP Day Night Band (0.70 µm) and Suomi NPP Brightness Temperature Difference (11.35 µm – 3.74 µm), 10 February 2015, 0715 UTC (Click to animate)

[Added, Friday the 13th]: The co-registration error between the longwave and shortwave infrared bands on the GOES-13 Imager is larger than on any of the other Imagers from GOES-8 through GOES-15. For more information, see here and here.

Comparison of co-registration errors between various GOES satellites

Comparison of co-registration errors between various GOES satellites