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)

Extratropical transition of Leslie

September 26th, 2018 |

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left), Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left), Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (above) showed Leslie as it transitioned from a Subtropical Storm at 00 UTC on 25 September to a Subtropical Depression at 03 UTC, then to a Post-Tropical Cyclone at 15 UTC, and eventually to a warm seclusion hurricane force cyclone with a classic “scorpion tail” sting jet signature by 00 UTC on 27 September.

Surface analyses during this 48-hour period are shown below; Leslie is located in the lower left corner. A longer animation (from 21-27 September) revealed the slowly-meandering circulation centers of pre- and post-Leslie (animated GIF | MP4).

Surface analyses at 6-hour intervals [click to play animation | MP4]

Surface analyses at 6-hour intervals [click to play animation | MP4]

The period of warm seclusion intensification of the remnants of Leslie, beginning after about 12-15 UTC on 26 September, was in response to the approach of an upper-level Potential Vorticity (PV) anomaly from the west-northwest (below). The “dynamic tropopause” — taken to be the pressure of the 1.5 Potential Vorticity Unit (PVU) surface — then descended to the 660 hPa pressure level (around 10,000 feet or 3 km) at 18 UTC on 26 September, according to GFS90 model fields.

GOES-16 Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level (6.9 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level (6.9 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm) Water Vapor images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

This lowered tropopause brought ozone-rich air from the stratosphere down to very low altitudes — on GOES-16 Air Mass Red-Green-Blue (RGB) imagery (below), this ozone-rich air was highlighted by varying shades of red (the Air Mass RGB uses the 9.6 µm Ozone band to calculate the Green component).

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images, with contours of PV1.5 pressure [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images, with contours of the PV1.5 pressure surface plotted in green [click to play animation | MP4]

A larger-scale view of the GOES-16 Air Mass RGB from the NWS Ocean Prediction Center (below) extends to 1115 UTC on 27 September.


An animation of the GOES-16 Air Mass RGB at 6-hour intervals from 00 UTC on 25 September to 12 UTC on 27 September is shown below, with and without contours of PV1.5 pressure. The dynamic tropopause descended to 850 hPa at 06 UTC on 27 September (when the storm was producing hurricane force winds) and eventually to 925 hPa at 12 UTC on 27 September (when it was producing storm force winds). The Air Mass RGB images highlighted the signature of the PV anomaly (shades of red) as it approached from the northwest then wrapped around the western and southern portion of the storm circulation.

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images, with and without contours of GFS PV1.5 pressure [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images, with and without contours of GFS PV1.5 pressure [click to play animation | MP4]

The corresponding 6-hourly GOES-16 Split Water Vapor Difference (6.2 µm – 7.3 µm) images (below) show that a signature of the dry air aloft — associated with the aforementioned PV anomaly — was evident as a tongue of negative values in the -10 to -15ºC range (green to gray enhancement) that initially approached the storm from the northwest.

GOES-16 Split Water Vapor Difference (6.2 µm - 7.3 µm) images, with and without contours of PV1.5 pressure [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Split Water Vapor Difference (6.2 µm – 7.3 µm) images, with and without contours of PV1.5 pressure [click to play animation | MP4]

In cases such as this, the Air Mass RGB and Split Water Vapor Difference can be used in tandem to identify and track PV anomalies (18 UTC / 25 September | 12 UTC / 26 September). Note that east of the storm there also another small PV anomaly moving northward, associated with an upper-level low pressure feature — but this second PV anomaly played no role in the development/intensification of the post-tropical remnants of Leslie.

===== 27 September Update =====

Sequence of GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images from 09 UTC on 27 September to 00 UTC on 28 September [click to play animation | MP4]

Sequence of GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images from 09 UTC on 27 September to 00 UTC on 28 September [click to play animation | MP4]

A sequence of GOES-16 Low-level, Mid-level and Upper-level Water Vapor images from 09 UTC on 27 September to 00 UTC on 28 September (above) showed the classic wrapped dry/moist bands often seen with occluded mid-latitude cyclones.

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]