Dust storm over the central and southern High Plains region

March 11th, 2014
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

AWIPS images of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) show the hazy signature of an intense dust storm (sometimes locally referred to as a “haboob”) created by strong winds in the wake of a southward-moving cold front on 11 March 2014. This blowing dust reduced surface visibility to zero in parts of southwestern Kansas (where there were wind gusts of 59 mph), causing several traffic accidents. At Amarillo, Texas (KAMA) the wind gusted to 60 mph, and visibility was reduced to 0.25 mile at times. A pilot report indicated that the top of the blowing dust was as high as 11,000 feet over the Oklahoma panhandle region.

A sequence of Terra/Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed the southward advancement of the lighter tan colored areas of blowing dust.

Terra/Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images

Terra/Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images

A signal of the airborne dust (cyan color enhancement) was also seen on Terra/Aqua MODIS images of the 11-12 µm “reverse absorption” IR difference product (below).

MODIS 11-12 µm "reverse absorption" IR difference product

MODIS 11-12 µm “reverse absorption” IR difference product

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed the development of a “cirrus bloom” over far northeastern New Mexico as the surface cold front and blowing dust moved through that region. It is interesting to note that there was a pilot report of severe turbulence at an altitude of 45,000 feet around that time (reportedly due to a mountain wave) — this raises the question as to whether a vertically-propagating wave generated by the strong cold front might have caused that high-altitude turbulence.

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images, with pilot reports of turbulence (click to play animation)

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images, with pilot reports of turbulence (click to play animation)

Additional satellite images of this event can be found on the Wide World of SPoRT blog.

===== 12 March Update =====

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image, with surface observations and frontal analysis

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image, with surface observations and frontal analysis

During the subsequent night-time hours, a Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image at 08:35 UTC or 2:35 AM local time (above) displayed a signature of the airborne dust over far southwestern Texas — the glow of the city lights below the dust layer was more diffuse than in dust-free areas farther to the east in central Texas. Also note that an undular bore had formed along the cold frontal boundary near the coast of southeast Texas.

A comparison of the VIIRS Day/Night Band image with a MODIS 11-12 µm image (below) confirmed the presence of airborne dust over southwestern Texas. As in the MODIS example above, the brighter cyan color enhancement was a signal of dust.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and MODIS 11-12 µm IR difference product images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and MODIS 11-12 µm IR difference product images

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