Potential Vorticity (PV) anomaly aiding convective development

July 2nd, 2013 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

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

AWIPS images of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the development of pockets of thunderstorms across Iowa, eastern Nebraska, and northwestern Missouri  on 02 July 2013.  Several of these storms produced hail up to 1 inch in diameter (SPC storm reports).

Note the pronounced cyclonic spin across the region of thunderstorm development — this was due to the approach of a compact shortwave trough that was rotating around the western periphery of a larger-scale upper-level trough of low pressure that was centered over the middle Mississippi River valley on that day. This shortwave trough had a nice signature on GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation).

GOES-13 0.65 µm water channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 0.65 µm water channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 sounder Total Column Ozone product

GOES-13 sounder Total Column Ozone product

In addition, the GOES-13 sounder Total Column Ozone (TCO) product (above; click image to play animation) revealed that a distinct maximum in TCO values (red color enhancement) accompanied this disturbance. NAM40 model overlays of the pressure of the Potential Vorticity (PV) 1.5 surface (a general indicator of the height of the dynamic tropopause) suggested that a PV anomaly was associated with the high TCO values (below) — and this PV anomaly was likely helping to dynamically force some of the development of thunderstorms seen across the region.

GOES-13 sounder Total Column Ozone product with NAM40 PV 1.5 pressure and 500 hPa geopotential height

GOES-13 sounder Total Column Ozone product with NAM40 PV 1.5 pressure and 500 hPa geopotential height

Strong potential vorticity anomaly off the California coast

February 9th, 2010 |
GOES waver vapor imagery + PV1.5 pressure + 500 hPa geopotential height

GOES waver vapor imagery + PV1.5 pressure + 500 hPa geopotential height

A strong potential vorticity (PV) anomaly was propagating southeastward just off the California coast on 09 February 2010 — and this feature had a striking presentation on AWIPS images of GOES-11 water vapor channel data (above), with a pronounced arc of very dry air (yellow color enhancement) seen around the periphery of the circulation. According to the CRAS model fields, the tropopause (taken to be the pressure of the PV1.5 surface) was being brought downward as low as the 600 hPa pressure level within the core of the PV anomaly.

Images of the GOES-11 sounder Total Column Ozone derived product (below) depicted ozone values as high as 430 Dobson Units (red color enhancement) in the vicinity of the PV anomaly, supporting the idea that the tropopause height was very depressed within the circulation feature.

GOES sounder Total Column Ozone + PV1.5 pressure + 500 hPa geoptential height

GOES sounder Total Column Ozone + PV1.5 pressure + 500 hPa geoptential height

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GOES-11 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel images

GOES-11 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel images

A 4-panel comparison of the three water vapor channels on the GOES-11 Sounder (6.5 µm, 7.0 µm, and 7.4 µm) and the GOES-11 Imager 6.7 µm water vapor channel (above) showed that the dry air signature was even quite evident on the Sounder 6.5 µm channel (darker blue color enhancement, upper left panels) — this particular water vapor channel weighting function normally peaks quite high in the atmosphere (around 325 hPa), where these types of water vapor gradients and signatures are usually not as well-defined.

However, due to the dry air within the middle to upper troposphere associated with the PV anomaly, the weighting functions of all 4 of the GOES-11 water vapor channels (calculated using rawinsonde data from Vandenberg Air Force Base) peaked at altitudes that were quite a bit lower compared to the more “normal” conditions that would be seen in a US Standard Atmosphere or USSA environment (below). Convection moving onshore across southern California that day was responsible for at least one sighting of a waterspout in the San Diego area, and inland precipitation amounts of 1.0 to 1.5 inch were widespread.

GOES-11 sounder and imager water vapor weighting functions (Vandenberg vs USSA)

GOES-11 sounder and imager water vapor weighting functions (Vandenberg vs USSA)

First full day of Summer: snow in the Brooks Range of Alaska

June 22nd, 2016 |

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) showed the southeastward migration of an upper-level low across the North Slope and the eastern Brooks Range of Alaska during the 21 June – 22 June 2016 period. A potential vorticity (PV) anomaly was associated with this disturbance, which brought the dynamic tropopause — taken to be the pressure of the PV 1.5 surface — downward to below the 600 hPa pressure level over northern Alaska. Several inches of snow were forecast to fall in higher elevations of the eastern portion of the Brooks Range.

With the very large satellite viewing angle (or “zenith angle”) associated with GOES-15 imagery over Alaska  — which turns out to be 73.8 degrees for Fairbanks — the altitude of the peak of the Imager 6.5 µm water vapor weighting function (below) was shifted to higher altitudes (in this case, calculated using rawinsonde data from 12 UTC on 22 June, near the 300 hPa pressure level).

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

The ABI instrument on GOES-R will have 3 water vapor bands, roughly comparable to the 3 water vapor bands on the GOES-15 Sounder — the weighting functions for those 3 GOES-15 Sounder water vapor bands (calculated using the same Fairbanks rawinsonde data) are shown below. Assuming a similar spatial resolution as the Imager, the GOES-15 Sounder bands 11 (7.0 µm, green) and 12 (7.4 µm, red) would have allowed better sampling and visualization of the lower-altitude portion of this particular storm system. The 3 ABI water vapor bands are nearly identical to those on the Himawari-8 AHI instrument; an example of AHI water vapor imagery over part of Alaska can be seen here.

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

As the system departed and the clouds began to dissipate on 22 June, GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) did indeed show evidence of bright white snow-covered terrain on the northern slopes and highest elevations of the Brooks Range.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

A sequence of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images (below) showed a view of the storm during the 21-22 June period, along with the resultant snow cover on 22 June. However, the snow quickly began to melt as the surface air temperature rebounded into the 50’s and 60’s F at some locations.

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

The increase in fresh snow cover along the northern slopes and the highest elevations of the central and northeastern Brooks Range — most notably from Anaktuvuk Pass to Fort Yukon to Sagwon — was evident in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from 17 June and 22 June, as viewed using RealEarth (below). The actual time of the satellite overpass on 22 June was 2134 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Antecedent Conditions for a Nor’easter

January 26th, 2015 |
GOES-13 Sounder Skin Temperature derived product image

GOES-13 Sounder Skin Temperature derived product image

Forecasts have been consistent in the past days for a storm of historic proportions over parts of southern New England. What conditions that are present now argue for the development of a strong winter storm? The image above is the GOES Sounder Land Surface Temperature (or “Skin Temperature”) product; cold air is present over southeastern Canada, with surface temperatures near -30 C, associated with a surface high pressure system. The high pressure will act to reinforce the cold air at the surface, preventing or delaying any changeover to liquid or mixed precipitation (a MODIS Land Surface Temperature product at 1500 UTC on 26 January similarly shows cold air banked over southern Canada).

GOES_SkinT_1400_26January2015

GOES Sounder estimate of Skin Temperature, 1400 UTC 26 January 2015 (Click to enlarge)

Winds over southern New England early on the 26th continued out of the north and northwest, maintaining cold air at the surface. The ASCAT (from METOP-A) imagery above shows brisk northwesterly winds south of southern New England just before 0100 UTC, with southwesterlies east of Georgia and South Carolina just before 0300 UTC. Those southwesterlies are helping moisten the atmosphere, and heavy snows require abundant moisture. MIMIC Total Precipitation (below; click image to play animation) testifies to the moistening that is occurring off the southeast coast as this system develops; the storm appeared to tap moisture from both the Gulf of Mexico and a pre-existing atmospheric river over the Atlantic Ocean.

[Added: The 1540 UTC ASCAT winds show the surface circulation east of Hatteras and the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay! Winds south of New England have shifted to northeasterly. The location of the circulation well off the coast suggests cold air can be maintained over land.]

MIMIC total Precipitable Water (click to play animation)

MIMIC total Precipitable Water (click to play animation)

Given that moisture and cold air are present, what features argue for the development of a strong storm? The GOES-13 water vapor images (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes superimposed show the potent system developing off the US East Coast and blossoming over the Gulf Stream as a secondary warm conveyor belt forms (a water vapor image with lightning animation from 25-26 January is available here). Strong sinking motion behind the system is indicated by the development of warm water vapor channel brightness temperatures (yellow color enhancement), and strong rising motion ahead of the system helps to generate widespread, strong convection. Convection also occurred over the Deep South late on 25 January in response to solar heating. The system depicted in the Water Vapor imagery is obviously quite vigorous.

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)]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.64 µm visible channel images (below) showed that there was a great deal of convective banding within the secondary warm conveyor belt.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.64 µm channel images, with lightning, surface fronts and METAR reports

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.64 µm channel images, with lightning, surface fronts and METAR reports

Total Column Ozone is frequently used as a proxy of tropopause folding; tropopause folds accompany very strong storm development and the vertical circulation associated with the potential vorticity anomaly (maximum) associated with the folding draws stratospheric ozone down into the troposphere. GOES Sounder Total Column Ozone derived product images (below; click to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) show that the dynamic tropopause — taken to be the pressure of the PV1.5 surface, red contours — descends below the 400-450 hPa level along the southern gradient of the higher ozone values (green to red color enhancement) as the potential vorticity anomaly pivots eastward along the Gulf Coast states and then northeastward toward the intensifying storm. The presence of clouds prevented ozone retrievals over many areas, but some ozone values over 400 Dobson Units (red color enhancement) could be seen, which is characteristic of stratospheric air.

GOES Sounder Total Column Ozone derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES Sounder Total Column Ozone derived product images (click to play animation)

As the storm approached New England, a MODIS 11.0 µmIR channel image (below) revealed the presence of widespread embedded convective elements within the broad cloud shied, with some cloud-top IR brightness temperatures as cold as -65ºC (darker red color enhancement). These pockets of convection could enhance snowfall rates once they moved inland.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image, with lighting strikes, METAR surface reports, and fixed buoy reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image, with lighting strikes, METAR surface reports, and fixed buoy reports

An overlay of the RTMA surface winds (below) helped to locate the position of the surface low east of the Delmarva Peninsula. That position agrees well with ASCAT winds from 0158 UTC on 27 January.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image, with RTMA surface winds

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image, with RTMA surface winds

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 06:39 UTC or 1:39 AM Eastern time is shown below. With illumination from the Moon in the Waxing Gibbous phase (at about 60% of Full), the DNB provided a “visible image at night” which showed the expansive offshore “comma cloud” of the storm, along with the locations of bright cloud illumination from dense lightning activity (note the bright lightning signature east of Cape Cod, which corresponded well with a cluster of positive cloud-to-ground lightning strokes). Numerous pockets of convective development were seen well off the coast of North and South Carolina, due to strong cold air advection over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images (with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images (with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes)