On 25 December 2011 a new all-time record high temperature of +9.9Â° F (-12.3Â° C) was set at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station — the previous all-time record high was +7.5Â° F (-13.6Â° C) on 27 December 1978. A NOAA-18 AVHRR false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (above) displayed a variety of low cloud and high cloud features across the region at 11:17 UTC. Station identifier NZSP marks the location of the Amundsen-Scott station; the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf is at the top of the image.
A listing of available NZSP surface reports is shown below — the maximum temperature actually occurred at 02:50 UTC (15:50 local time). Note that there was also snow (S), light snow grains (SG-), or ice crystals (IC) being reported during much of the day that experienced the record high temperature!
A NOAA-18 AVHRR 3.7 Âµm shortwave IR image (above) depicted a number of patches of low altitude clouds composed of supercooled water droplets — these low cloud features appeared darker (warmer) since the shortwave IR channel is also sensitiveÂ to the reflection of solar radiation off the cloud tops.
On the other hand, the corresponding NOAA-18 AVHRR 10.8 Âµm IR image (below) showed that there were high altitude cirrus clouds (cyan to dark blue color enhancement) in the vicinity of station NZSP. These high cirrus clouds could have been contributing to a “seeder-feeder effect” to help produce the periods of light precipitation that were observed on that day.
A EUMETSAT MetOp-A false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (below; courtesy of Dave Santek, SSEC) showed the cloud features over the South Pole region at 02:52 UTC (very close to the time of the record high temperture).
For additional satellite images and information on this event, see the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center “On the Ice” blog and The Antarctic Sun.
The “spinning globe” satellite image montage (above; click image to play animation) showed the cloud formations around the planet on Earth Day (22 April 2011). This product is created by combining data from 5 of the currently operational geostationary orbiting meteorological satellites (GOES-East at 75Âº West longitude, GOES-West at 135Âº West longitude, Meteosat at 0Âº longitude, Meteosat at 63Âº East longitude, and MTSAT at 145Âº East longitude), polar orbiting satellites, and a topographic background map of the Earth. The spinning globe product is created every 3 hours, and is available for either the latest time period or an animation covering the last 3 weeks.
Polar-orbiting satellites such as the NASA Terra and Aqua platforms also provide us with valuable information over the polar regions of the Earth (which are not sampled well by geostationary satellites, due to the very large viewing angles). Cloud-tracked winds (or “atmospheric motion vectors”) can be calculated by comparing the location of features on successive images — examples of Terra and Aqua MODIS winds from 22 April 2011 over the Arctic region (above) and the Antarctic region (below) provide valuable input into numerical weather prediction models.
These are just a few examples of the diverse array of real-time satellite data and products that are available from the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison every day.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a large portion of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in the Antarctic (map) began to collapse during late February and early March 2008. A Terra MODIS visible image (above; courtesy of Shelley Knuth, SSEC Antarctic Meteorological Research Center) shows the extent of ice shelf disintegration on 10 March 2008.
The latest real-time IR satellite composite and Antarctic synoptic analysis chart from the SSEC AMRC is shown below.