Persistent cut-off low over the north-central US

September 27th, 2011 |
GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor images (click image to play animation)

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

McIDAS images of GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the changing signature of a persistent upper level cut-off low lingering over the north-central US during the 23 September27 September 2011 period. As the system lingered over the region, it produced widespread wind gusts in the 30-40 mph range (with a peak wind gust of 46 mph at Green Bay, Wisconsin), and rainfall totals of 4-5 inches at some locations in northern Illinois.

AWIPS images of the hourly GOES sounder Total Column Ozone product on 25 September 26 September (below; click image to play animation) revealed a distinct elevated ozone signature (300-400 Dobson Units, green to red color enhancement), which indicated that the height of the tropopause was lower in the vicinity of the cut-off low.

 

GOES sounder Total Column Ozone product (click image to play animation)

GOES sounder Total Column Ozone product (click image to play animation)

One notable impact associated with this cut-off low included thunderstorms along the Lake Michigan shoreline that produced a number of waterspouts that were seen from Milwaukee to Chicago. A comparison of MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 11.0 µm IR window channel image at 17:28 UTC (12:28 pm local time) on 24 September (below) showed one of the storms that exhibited cloud top IR brightness temperatures colder than -40ºC (blue color enhancement), along with a number of cloud to ground lightning strikes as it moved inland.

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 11.0 µm IR window channel images

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 11.0 µm IR window channel images

Another impact of this cut-off low included a number of pilot reports of light to moderate turbulence over the central and southern Great Plains region. A well-defined bloom of cirrus clouds developed within a zone of high 400-200 hPa layer wind shear, as seen on 4-km resolution GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images with overlays of CRAS model fields (below; click image to play animation).

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor images + turbulence reports + CRAS layer winds and shear (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor images + turbulence reports + CRAS layer winds and shear (click image to play animation)

Better detail of the banded structure of the cirrus cloud features within the high-shear deformation zone can be seen on a 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image (below). Note the pilot report of light to moderate turbulence during the entire flight from Denver (DEN) to Kansas City (MCI).

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image + pilot reports of turbulence

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image + pilot reports of turbulence

A sequence of 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel images on 26 September (below) showed some very intricate dry air and moisture structures within the cut-off low during that particular day.

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

In a comparison of MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel images (below), note how much more structure is seen in the water vapor image — even in areas that are cloud-free in the visible image. This allows a number of water vapor features and gradients to be tracked using 3 consecutive GOES water vapor images, to produce MADIS high-altitude atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) that can provide important wind direction and wind speed data. An AMV with a wind speed of 130 knots (at 300 hPa) was seen in the dry slot over southern Missouri.

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image + MADIS satellite winds

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image + MADIS satellite winds

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