“Billow cloud” formations near the Hawaiian Islands

January 28th, 2013 |
GOES-15 10.7 µm IR images with surface analysis and pilot reports of turbulence (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 10.7 µm IR images with surface analysis and pilot reports of turbulence (click image to play animation)

The AWIPS images above (click to play animation) showed low-resolution GOES-15 10.7 µm IR data with an overlay of the surface analysis and pilot reports of turbulence. A number of reports of moderate turbulence could be seen in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands (at altitudes between 9,000 and 27,000 feet), and the diffuse southern end of a surface cold frontal boundary had become semi-stationary over the area. The overall motion of the colder (lighter gray) IR cloud features suggested that the southwesterly flow aloft was becoming diffluent over and northeast of Hawaii.

A closer view using McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel data (below; click image to play animation) revealed the formation of several small banded “billow cloud” features just to the northeast of the island chain. While there appeared to be no pilot reports of turbulence directly associated with the billow cloud features, the continued development of new billow cloud formations could have been a signal that turbulence was possible across the region. In addition, it is unclear whether their formation was due to flow interacting with the topography of the islands.

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

The corresponding GOES-15 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed that IR cloud top brightness temperatures were as cold as -27º C (darker blue color enhancement) with the most prominent band of billow clouds at 18:30 UTC. According the the 12 UTC Hilo rawinsonde data, clouds reaching this temperature level would have ascended into the very dry air aloft. It is possible that these billow cloud features formed near the 700 hPa pressure level (where some speed and directional wind shear existed), then continued to build vertically.

GOES-15 10.7 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 10.7 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation) seemed to suggest that groups of individual billow cloud formations were developing along north-to-south oriented lines that were propagating eastward across the region during this period.

GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

It is interesting to note that similar billow cloud formations were seen in that same region northeast of the Hawaiian Islands on Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR images at various times during the previous 24 hours (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

One Response to ““Billow cloud” formations near the Hawaiian Islands”

  1. Billi Wagner says:

    On Feb 20, 7:30am EST in Vero Beach, FL I watched several long sausage-shaped clouds race by NW to SE, and when I looked east, there were sun dogs. The clouds seemed to be very low, and sweeping by, unless this phenomenon just gives that appearance but that the clouds are constantly reforming. I had to look them up in my cloud book and then on the web.

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