Intense hurricane-force storm in the Bering Sea

December 13th, 2015

Himawari-8 Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images [click to play animation

Himawari-8 Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images [click to play animation

Japanese Meteorological Agency Himawari-8 Water Vapor (6.9 µm, 2-km resolution) images (above) showed the rapid intensification of a hurricane-force extratropical cyclone over the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea during the 12 December – 13 December 2015 period. The 6.9 µm is one of 3 water vapor spectral bands on the Himawari AHI instrument — GOES-R will feature 3 nearly identical water vapor bands on the ABI instrument.

According to surface analyses from the Ocean Prediction Center, the storm was centered over Japan at 00 UTC on 11 December, and began rapidly intensifying later that day as it continued moving northeastward; it eventually deepened to a minimum central pressure of 924 hPa (27.29 inches of mercury) over the far southern Bering Sea at 06 UTC on 13 December. This equaled the analyzed minimum central pressure of Post-Tropical Cyclone Nuri in November 2014, which was one of the strongest storms on record in the Bering Sea.

Corresponding GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm, 4-km resolution) images (below) offered a slightly closer view of the intensifying storm. The unique satellite signature — resembling a curved scorpion tail — of a phenomenon known as a sting jet was seen to begin developing around 20 UTC on 12 December south of the Aleutian Islands. Several hours after the middle-tropospheric sting jet feature on water vapor imagery moved over Adak Island (PADK on the images) around 0130 UTC, sustained surface winds of 82 knots (94 mph) with gusts to 106 knots (122 mph) were recorded just after 09 UTC. According a Tweet from the Ocean Prediction Center, winds from the storm also produced wave heights of 63 feet.

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

A time series of surface observations at Adak Island (below) indicated that the minimum station pressure of 939.0 hPa (27.73 inches of mercury) was recorded just after 04 UTC.

Time series of Adak Island, Alaska surface observation [click to enlarge]

Time series of Adak Island, Alaska surface observation [click to enlarge]

Additional imagery from this event can be found on the RAMMB GOES-R Proving Ground Blog.

Ice growth in Hudson Bay

November 24th, 2015

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 (GOES-East) Visible (0.63 µm) images (above) showed the growth of offshore ice in the western and northwestern portions of Hudson Bay on 24 November 2015. Also evident on the imagery was cloud streets aligned with the northerly/northwesterly flow of cold arctic air over the water, as well as the presence of a mesoscale low moving southeastward. Apparently this mesoscale low was behind the primary low (with its associated trailing occluded front), which was depicted to be over the eastern portion of Hudson Bay (surface analyses) during the daylight hours of the visible imagery.

A better view of the offshore ice (as well as the ice in central Hudson Bay, northeast of the aforementioned mesoscale low) was provided by Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color images, visulized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below). In the false-color image, snow cover and ice appear as darker shades of cyan.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color images [click to enlarge]

A comparison of Canadian Ice Service analyses from 16 November and 23 November (below) showed the growth of the offshore ice along the western and northwestern edges of Hudson Bay, as well as the larger area of ice growing southward in the central portion of Hudson Bay during that 1-week period. The departure from normal images at the bottom indicated that ice concentration along the western and northwestern edges was well below normal (red), while the concentration of the large area of ice in central Hudson Bay was greater than normal (blue).

Hudson Bay ice concentration on 16 and 23 November 2015 [click to enlarge]

Hudson Bay ice concentration on 16 and 23 November 2015 [click to enlarge]

Hudson Bay ice concentration departure from normal on 16 and 23 November [click to enlarge]

Hudson Bay ice concentration departure from normal on 16 and 23 November [click to enlarge]

Wildfires continue in the interior of Alaska

July 25th, 2015

GOES-15 visible (top) and shortwave IR (bottom) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 visible (top) and shortwave IR (bottom) images [click to play animation]

Wildfires continued to burn across parts of the interior of Alaska during the 22-25 July 2015 period, as is shown in GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible channel and 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (above; click to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file). Also of interest is: (1) the diurnal change of intensity and areal coverage of the fire hot spots (darker black to red pixels on the shortwave IR images), with the fires dying down at night, and (2) the change in direction of smoke transport, from westward on 22 July to eastward on 24 July. The switch in smoke transport direction was the result of changing winds associated with a broad area of low pressure moving across Alaska during that period (surface analyses).

A more detailed view of the fire hot spots was provided by 375-meter resolution (mapped onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR images (below; click to play animation).

Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave IR images [click to play animation]

Suomi NPP VIIRS shortwave IR images [click to play animation]

Many of the fires were burning in the general vicinity of the Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport (station identifier PAIM); a time series of surface observation from that site (below) showed that visibility was 1 mile or less due to smoke at times on 25 July.

Time series of surface observation from Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport [click to enlarge]

Time series of surface observation from Utopia Creek, Indian Mountain airport [click to enlarge]

Daily composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server are shown below.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Wildfire smoke: from Alaska to Norway, via the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans

July 18th, 2015

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

EUMETSAT Meteosat-10 High Resolution Visible (0.8 µm) images (above; click to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed the hazy signature of what appeared to be a ribbon of smoke aloft being transported eastward across the North Atlantic Ocean by the circulation of a large area of low pressure (surface | 500 hPa) on 17 July 2015. Early in the day, the smoke feature stretched from the east coast of Greenland to the central Atlantic Ocean; by the end of the day, the leading edge of the smoke had moved over the British Isles and was headed toward Scandinavia.

A portion of the smoke plume could be seen on Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (below) as it was approaching the southern portion of Great Britain.

Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color images [click to enlarge]

On the following morning, Meteosat-10 visible images (below; click to play animation) showed that the leading edge of the smoke ribbon was moving over southern Norway.

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

Meteosat-10 0.8 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

The transport pathway of this smoke feature was rather interesting, as we shall explore with the following sets of images.

Suomi NPP VIIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible images on 06 July [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible images on 06 July [click to enlarge]

The 2015 wildfire season in Alaska had been very active — as of 17 July, it was rated as the 4th worst in terms of total acreage burned. In early July, numerous wildfires burning across the interior of Alaska were producing a large amount of smoke, as can be seen in a comparison of of Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 0.64 µm visible channel images at 2131 and 2312 UTC on 06 July (above). The thermal signature of the wildfire “hot spots” showed up as yellow to red to black pixels on the 2 shortwave IR images, while the widespread smoke plumes from the fires are evident on the 2 visible images; even in the relatively short 101 minutes separating the two sets of VIIRS images, notable changes in fire activity could be seen.

Looking a bit farther to the north and west, a sequence of VIIRS 0.64 µm visible images centered over Cape Lisburne (station identifier PALU) in northwestern Alaska covering a 2-day period from 06 to 08 July (below) showed the initial transport of large amounts of smoke from the interior of Alaska northwestward over the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and Russia.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel images covering the 06-08 July period [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel images covering the 06-08 July period [click to enlarge]

Daily composites of Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index covering the period of 04-17 July (below; courtesy of Colin Seftor; see his OMPS Blog post) showed the strong signal of this dense Alaskan smoke (denoted by the red arrows) as it moved from east to west over the far southern Arctic Ocean and along the far northern coast of Russia from 06-10 July. The Aerosol Index signal seemed to stall north of Scandinavia on 12-13 July, but then a small portion began to move toward Iceland and Greenland on 13-15 July around the periphery of a large upper-level low (500 hPa analyses). Finally, some of this smoke was then transported eastward across the Atlantic Ocean around the southern periphery of this upper-level low on 17 July, as was seen on the Meteosat-10 visible images at the beginning of this blog post.

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index images, covering the period 04-17 July [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index images, covering the period 04-17 July [click to enlarge]

CALIOP lidar data from the CALIPSO satellite (below) showed the vertical distribution of the Alaskan smoke over and off the coast of northern Norway on 11 July. The signal of the smoke was located in the center portion of the images; while there appeared to be some smoke at various altitudes within the middle to upper troposphere, a significant amount of smoke was seen in the lower stratosphere in the 10-12 km altitude range.

CALIPSO CALIOP lidar data showing the smoke over northern Norway on 11 July [click to enlarge]

CALIPSO CALIOP lidar data showing the smoke over northern Norway on 11 July [click to enlarge]