Stratus clouds in central Canada

October 2nd, 2008 |
AWIPS images of the GOES-12 and MODIS fog/stratus product

AWIPS images of the GOES-12 and MODIS fog/stratus product

A patch of stratus cloud was easily identifiable on AWIPS images of the GOES-12 and MODIS fog/stratus product (above) across parts of eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba in central Canada on 02 October 2008. Note how much sharper the cloud edge appeared on the 1-km resolution MODIS image compared to the 4-km resolution GOES-12 image.

MODIS Cloud Top Temperature, Cloud Phase, and GOES-12 Low Cloud Base products

MODIS Cloud Top Temperature, Cloud Phase, and GOES-12 Low Cloud Base products

Other AWIPS satellite products such as the MODIS Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Phase, and the GOES-12 Low Cloud Base (above) indicated that this particular stratus cloud feature would likely not have posed a hazard to aircraft icing, given that the cloud phase was water droplets which exhibited cloud top temperatures  in the +3 to +6º C range. The lowest cloud bases appeared to be along the western portions of the stratus feature, which was confirmed by a ceiling report of 400 feet above ground level at Key Lake, Saskatchewan (station identifier CYKJ) versus 800 feet at The Pas, Manitoba (station identifier CYQD).

GOES-12 and GOES-13 visible images

GOES-12 and GOES-13 visible images

The daytime dissipation of this area of stratus cloud could then be monitored using visible channel imagery from GOES-12 and GOES-13 (above). The stratus deck burned off over the Key Lake (CYKJ) area around 18:00 UTC (Noon local time). Note that the surface features on the GOES-13 animations exhibit less image-to-image movement compared to GOES-12 — improvements to the GOES-13 spacecraft Image Navigation and Registration (INR) system  include the use of star trackers to provide more precise image navigation.

Lake Athabasca (which staddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border region) was seen in the upper left portion of the GOES-12 imagery, due to the different viewing angle from that satellite — note the brighter white features along parts of the southern shore of the lake. The initial question of “Could those bright white features be ice that had formed in the lake?”  was addressed by examining a 4-panel comparison of MODIS Visible, Snow/Ice, Land Surface Temperature, and Sea Surface Temperature (below); ice would have exhibited a darker signal on the 1.6 µm near-IR Snow/Ice image, but this feature was brighter white on both the Visible and the Snow/Ice images. In addition, the MODIS sea surface temperatures in the lake were in the mid 40s F (green colors), which argues against ice formation.

MODIS Visible, Snow/ice, Land Surface Temperature, Sea Surface Temperature

MODIS Visible, Snow/ice, Land Surface Temperature, Sea Surface Temperature

A quick look at a map of the area provided the complete answer: the brighter white features seen along the southern shore of the lake are actually Athabasca Sand Dunes Provincial Park.

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