Meso-vortex over Qinghai Lake, China

December 18th, 2015 |

We received the following notification on Twitter from Walt Clark:

Good catch Walt, and thanks for the heads-up! Using the Location Search feature of RealEarth, we found that Qinghai Lake is located in central China, and Wikipedia told us it’s also the largest lake in China. (Qinghai Lake is slightly smaller than the Great Salt Lake in Utah) The mesoscale vortex can be seen over the lake on a Himawari-8 true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image at 0400 UTC on 18 December 2015 (below).

Himawari-8 true-color image at 0400 UTC [click to play zoom-in animation]

Himawari-8 true-color image at 0400 UTC [click to play zoom-in animation]

Daytime Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm, 0.5-km resolution) images (below) showed the feature spinning cyclonically over Qinghai Lake as it slowly migrated northward.

Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

However, we’re not certain that this was a Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV); while there was some convection over the mountains north of the lake during the preceding nighttime hours on 17 December which exhibited cloud-top IR brightness temperatures around -40º C (color-enhanced Himawari-8 Infrared animation), it appears more likely that this might have been a convective outflow boundary from those mountain thunderstorms which became trapped within the “bowl” of high terrain that nearly surrounds the lake. A long animation which concatenates the earlier nighttime Himawari-8 Infrared (10.4 µm, 2-km resolution) and the later daytime Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm, 0.5-km resolution) images is shown below. It is difficult to trace the origin of the vortex feature as being from the aforementioned convective activity.

Himawari-8 Infrared (10.4 µm) and Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

Himawari-8 Infrared (10.4 µm) and Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

The meso-vortex was also seen on a MODIS true-color RGB image from the Aqua satellite, which did an overpass of the region around 0642 UTC (below). While some small patches of ice did appear to be forming along the edges of Qinghai Lake, it remained predominantly ice-free (unlike the smaller and presumably more shallow Har Lake to the northwest, which looked to be totally ice-covered).

Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image, with Google maps background [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image, with Google maps background [click to enlarge]

One Response to “Meso-vortex over Qinghai Lake, China”

  1. Scott Bachmeier says:

    Comment submitted by Tony Cristaldi (National Weather Service Melbourne FL):

    “To me, this appears to be a mesolow/mesovortex that spun up in situ from intense “lake effect” type convection in a localized thermal convergence zone, aided by the round “bowl” shape of the lake. That subtle outflow type feature you referred to (moving across the lake from 0900-1100UTC) may have helped kick it off by introducing some mesoscale convergence. However, I think the primary mechanism was the intense lake-air temperature difference, coupled with the “bowl” shape of the lake.

    I’ve seen small vortices of this type (albeit slightly larger in scale) form several times over the Great Lakes, and I seem to recall something like this developing once or twice on Lake Okeechobee during the winter.”

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