Flooding in Southern California

January 9th, 2018 |

1-minute GOES-16 Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images; with hourly reports of surface weather type plotted in yellow [click to play MP4 animation]

1-minute GOES-16 Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images; with hourly reports of surface weather type plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

An onshore flow of moisture (MIMIC TPW) in tandem with forcing for ascent with the approach of an upper-level low and a surface cold/occluded front brought heavy rainfall and some higher-elevation snowfall (NWS LOX/SGX | WPC) to much of Southern California on 09 January 2018. To help monitor the event, a GOES-16 (GOES-East) Mesoscale Sector was positioned over the region, providing images at 1-minute intervals. “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed the colder clouds associated with periods of moderate to heavy rainfall. Some of this precipitation fell over burn scar areas from wildfires that occurred in December 2017 — including the Thomas fire, which was the largest on record for the state of California — resulting in numerous mud/debris slides that caused at least 17 fatalities, destroyed/damaged hundreds of homes, and closed many streets and highways.

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (below) showed some of the features which helped produce heavier rainfall and snowfall during the daylight hours on 09 January.

1-minute GOES-16

1-minute GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images; with hourly reports of surface weather type plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

The circulation of the upper-level low was easily seen on GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below).

1-minute GOES-16 Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images; with hourly reports of surface weather type plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

1-minute GOES-16 Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images; with hourly reports of surface weather type plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

===== 10 January Update =====

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color and False-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color and False-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

On the following day, a toggle between Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color and False-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from RealEarth (above) showed (1) the large burn scar from the Thomas Fire (shades of reddish-brown), and (2) snow cover in the higher terrain (darker shades of cyan) on the False-color image. The True-color image revealed sediment from runoff flowing into the nearshore waters from Santa Barbara to Oxnard (shades of brown to light green).

A closer look at the Thomas Fire burn scar was provided by 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 False-color RGB imagery (below), which showed thin filaments of muddy sediment just offshore, as well as fresh snow cover (shades of cyan) along or immediately adjacent to the northeastern edge of the burn scar (in the Hines Peak area). On 10 January, the fire was listed as 92% contained (100% containment was declared on 12 January).

Landsat-8 False-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 False-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

===== 11 January Update =====

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color images on 10 January and 11 January [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color images on 10 January and 11 January [click to enlarge]

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color RGB images on 10 January and 11 January (above) showed that sediment was flowing farther offshore from the Thomas Fire burn scar area.

Farther to the south, offshore sediment transport was also seen in the San Diego area (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color image on 11 January [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color image on 11 January [click to enlarge]