First full day of Summer: snow in the Brooks Range of Alaska

June 22nd, 2016

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

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

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) showed the southeastward migration of an upper-level low across the North Slope and the eastern Brooks Range of Alaska during the 21 June – 22 June 2016 period. A potential vorticity (PV) anomaly was associated with this disturbance, which brought the dynamic tropopause — taken to be the pressure of the PV 1.5 surface — downward to below the 600 hPa pressure level over northern Alaska. Several inches of snow were forecast to fall in higher elevations of the eastern portion of the Brooks Range.

With the very large satellite viewing angle (or “zenith angle”) associated with GOES-15 imagery over Alaska  — which turns out to be 73.8 degrees for Fairbanks — the altitude of the peak of the Imager 6.5 µm water vapor weighting function (below) was shifted to higher altitudes (in this case, calculated using rawinsonde data from 12 UTC on 22 June, near the 300 hPa pressure level).

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

The ABI instrument on GOES-R will have 3 water vapor bands, roughly comparable to the 3 water vapor bands on the GOES-15 Sounder — the weighting functions for those 3 GOES-15 Sounder water vapor bands (calculated using the same Fairbanks rawinsonde data) are shown below. Assuming a similar spatial resolution as the Imager, the GOES-15 Sounder bands 11 (7.0 µm, green) and 12 (7.4 µm, red) would have allowed better sampling and visualization of the lower-altitude portion of this particular storm system. The 3 ABI water vapor bands are nearly identical to those on the Himawari-8 AHI instrument; an example of AHI water vapor imagery over part of Alaska can be seen here.

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

As the system departed and the clouds began to dissipate on 22 June, GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) did indeed show evidence of bright white snow-covered terrain on the northern slopes and highest elevations of the Brooks Range.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

A sequence of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images (below) showed a view of the storm during the 21-22 June period, along with the resultant snow cover on 22 June. However, the snow quickly began to melt as the surface air temperature rebounded into the 50’s and 60’s F at some locations.

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

The increase in fresh snow cover along the northern slopes and the highest elevations of the central and northeastern Brooks Range — most notably from Anaktuvuk Pass to Fort Yukon to Sagwon — was evident in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from 17 June and 22 June, as viewed using RealEarth (below). The actual time of the satellite overpass on 22 June was 2134 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

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]