Dust storm in southern Nevada and California

April 14th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click o play animation)

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

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) showed the hazy signature of a cloud of thick blowing dust moving southward across southern Nevada and parts of southern California, along and behind a strong cold frontal boundary on 14 April 2015.

Areas where the dust cloud was more dense could be identified using the Terra and Aqua MODIS 11-12 µm IR brightness temperature difference (BTD) product (below). The 12 µm IR channel is no longer available on the imager instrument of the current series of GOES satellites — however, the ABI instrument on the upcoming GOES-R satellite will have a 12 µm IR channel, allowing the creation of such BTD products to aid in the identification and tracking of similar dust features.

Terra and Aqua MODIS 11-12 µm IR brightness temperature difference

Terra and Aqua MODIS 11-12 µm IR brightness temperature difference

At 1833 UTC, a pilot reported that the top of the dust cloud was at 11,500 feet near its leading edge (below). Farther to the south, strong winds interacting with the terrain were causing pockets of moderate to severe turbulence.

Terra MODIS 11-12 µm IR brightness temperature difference, with pilot reports

Terra MODIS 11-12 µm IR brightness temperature difference, with pilot reports

The blowing dust cloud was also evident on true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from MODIS and VIIRS, as visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below).

MODIS and VIIRS true-color RGB images

MODIS and VIIRS true-color RGB images

Major sandstorm in the Arabian Peninsula

April 2nd, 2015
Visible satellite images and surface observations (click to play animation)

Visible satellite images and surface observations (click to play animation)

Visible satellite images from the SSEC RealEarth web map server (above; click image to play animation) revealed the hazy light gray signature of a major sandstorm that was advancing south-southeastward across the Arabian Peninsula on 02 April 2015. An Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (actual satellite overpass time was 10:20 UTC or 2:20 PM local time) is shown below — the dense cloud of airborne sand appeared as a lighter shade of tan.

Aqua MODIS true-color image

Aqua MODIS true-color image

A Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image from the previous day (below) depicted the beginning phase of the sandstorm in the northern portion of Saudi Arabia, which consisted of a number of smaller plumes of blowing sand prior to consolidating into the large feature seen on 02 April.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image (01 April)

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image (01 April)

The blowing sand reduced surface visibility to near zero at some locations, disrupting ground transportation, air traffic, and also closing schools. Visibility was reduced to 0.1 mile for several hours at Dubai International Airport (below), which is one of the world’s busiest in terms of volume of flights.

Time series of weather conditions at Dubai International Airport

Time series of weather conditions at Dubai International Airport

During the previous nighttime hours, McIDAS-V images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data (below; images courtesy of William Straka, SSEC) showed the arc-shaped leading edge of the sandstorm as it stretched from the United Arab Emirates across Saudi Arabia at 22:01 UTC or 1:01 AM local time. Since the Moon was in the Waxing Gibbous phase (at 98% of Full), it provided ample illumination for these “visible images at night”.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

African dust blowing across the Mediterranean Sea

February 2nd, 2015
Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image composites

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image composites

A sequence of daily Suomi NPP VIIRS Red/Green/Blue (RGB) true-color image composites from the SSEC RealEarth web map server site (above) showed the northeastward transport of African dust across the Mediterranean Sea during the 31 January – 02 February 2015 period. On 02 February, orange snow was observed in Saratov, Russia (news story), a city about 580 miles or 936 km northeast of Stavropol (which is located in the far upper right corner of the VIIRS images).

Dusty Cold Front moves south through the Southern Plains

November 11th, 2014
GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery (click to play animation)

A strong cold front moved southward over the High Plains of the US on Monday 10 November, and the strong winds produced a dust cloud that was apparent in GOES-13 visible imagery, above. The leading edge of the dust cloud in the satellite imagery indicated precisely the leading edge of the cold front. The animation below shows hourly observations plotted on top of the GOES-13 visible imagery. The correspondence between the leading edge of the dust and the wind shift is obvious. Note that multiple stations report Haze (H) after the wind shift occurs.

GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery and surface observations (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery and surface observations (click to play animation)

GOES-15 viewed this event as well (Visible animation; Visible animation with observations). The dust in the atmosphere was far more apparent in the GOES-13 imagery, however. This case is an excellent demonstration of how dust effectively forward scatters visible light from the setting sun towards GOES-13 at 75º W, but does not so effectively back scatter towards GOES-15 at 135º W. The toggle below shows visible imagery from GOES-13 and GOES-15, both at 2200 UTC.

GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery and GOES-15 0.62 µm Visible Imagery, both at 2200 UTC 10 November (click to enlarge)

GOES-13 0.63 µm Visible imagery and GOES-15 0.62 µm Visible Imagery, both at 2200 UTC 10 November (click to enlarge)

Both Aqua (MODIS) and Suomi NPP (VIIRS) viewed this haboob in mid-afternoon on 10 November. What can the multispectral views of this feature tell us? Both the Visible and Snow/Ice channels give similar views of the leading edge of the cold front (the biggest difference between the visible and snow/ice channel in this image is that water features are so much darker in the snow/ice channel because water strongly absorbs 2.1 µm radiation; differences in the clouds between the visible and the snow/ice (2.1 µm) channel arise from viewing water-based vs. ice-based clouds). The cirrus channel — 1.37 µm — does not see the surface but it does clearly reveal high clouds. The 3.9-µm image — shortwave infrared — shows very warm temperatures right at the leading edge of the cold front in eastern Colorado. This is a region where the dust is effectively reflecting solar radiation. The longwave infrared imagery (10.7 µm) shows a more uniform cold edge to the cloud. Finally, even the water vapor imagery shows a signal from this cold front (known as a lee-side frontal gravity wave). It is unusual for surface features to have a signal in water vapor imagery; when it does occur, the atmosphere is usually very dry, and that’s the case in this event. Note in the toggle here between GOES water vapor channel weighting functions (computed here) at Amarillo between 0000 UTC — before the cold front — and 1200 UTC — after the cold front — shows how the layer from which 6.5 µm radiation will be detected has dropped in altitude.

Aqua MODIS Visible, Snow/Ice, Cirrus, Shortwave IR, Water Vapor and Longwave IR Imagery at 1917 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Aqua MODIS Visible, Snow/Ice, Cirrus, Shortwave IR, Water Vapor and Longwave IR Imagery at 1917 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP viewed the cold front 10 minutes before Aqua, below, and also about 90 minutes later (Favorable orbital geometry allowed sequential orbits to view eastern Colorado). The shortwave IR (3.74 µm) show warmer signatures in some of the dust plumes compared to the longwave IR (11.35 µm), similar to Aqua, a difference that is likely due to solar radiation being reflected by the dust.

Suomi NPP VIIRS data showing Visible, Day Night Band, Snow/Ice, Shortwave IR, and Longwave IR Imagery at 1907 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS data showing Visible, Day Night Band, Snow/Ice, Shortwave IR, and Longwave IR Imagery at 1907 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS data showing Visible, Day Night Band, Snow/Ice, Shortwave IR, and Longwave IR Imagery at 2049 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS data showing Visible, Day Night Band, Snow/Ice, Shortwave IR, and Longwave IR Imagery at 2049 UTC, 10 November (click to enlarge)

Animations of 10.7 µm Brightness Temperature Data from GOES-13 showed the southward plunge of cold air overnight. The progress of this cold front could be monitored from space. Even the water vapor imagery continued to include a signature of the cold front.

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.7 µm) Infrared Imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.7 µm) Infrared Imagery (click to play animation)

The visible imagery at the top of this post ably captured the signature associated with blowing dust. Did the blowing dust continue through the night? Single-channel detection of dust at night is difficult. Historically, dust could be detected with brightness temperature differences between 10.7 µm and 12 µm channels on the GOES Imager, but that capability ended when the 13.3 µm channel replaced the 12 µm channel on the GOES Imager (the GOES-R ABI will contain a 12 µm channel). The VIIRS Day Night Band, below, from Suomi NPP at 0905 UTC on 11 November, does not show a distinct dust signature over south Texas. The leading edge of the front is obvious, however, as it is preceded by a Bore structure with parallel lines of clouds.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day Night Band (.7 µm) Visible Imagery at 0905 UTC 11 November 2014 (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day Night Band (.7 µm) Visible Imagery at 0905 UTC 11 November 2014 (click to enlarge)