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

Fatal severe weather outbreak in Oklahoma

March 25th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

Severe thunderstorms developed in the vicinity of a quasi-stationary frontal boundary which stretched from northeastern Oklahoma into northern Arkansas and southern Missouri late in the day on 25 March 2015. A plot of the SPC storm reports shows that these storms produced widespread large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes —  including the first tornado-related fatality of 2015 at a trailer home park near Sand Springs, Oklahoma (just west/southwest of Tulsa). Storm reports also included hail as large as 4.25 inches in diameter, and wind gusts as high as 80 mph. 1-km resolution GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the development of numerous thunderstorms across the region, some of which grew to be very large discrete supercells late in the afternoon and toward sunset. The tell-tale signature of cloud-top shadows from small-scale “overshooting tops” could be seen with many of these storms, indicating the presence of vigorous updrafts which penetrated the thunderstorm top (and likely the tropopause). Also note the presence of parallel bands of stable wave clouds over parts of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Arkansas: these clouds highlighted areas where boundary layer warm air advection was over-running shallow pockets of cool, stable air north frontal boundary.

The corresponding 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) revealed very cold cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (as cold as -71º C, dark black color enhancement), along with the formation of a well-defined Enhanced-V/Thermal Couplet (EV/TC) signature with the storm that produced large hail, damaging winds, and the fatal tornado southwest of Tulsa (station identifier KTUL). The EV/TC signature was first evident on the 22:00 UTC IR image, with cold/warm thermal couplet values of -65º/-53º C; the maximum thermal couplet spread was at 22:25 UTC, with -71º/-52º C, after which time the minimum IR brightness temperatures of the overshooting tops then began a warming trend: -67º C at 22:30 UTC, and -64º C at 22:37 UTC (suggesting a collapse of the vigorous updraft and overshooting top). Note that the storm-top EV/TC signature was displaced to the northwest of the surface hail/wind/tornado storm reports just west of Tulsa, due to parallax resulting from the large satellite viewing angle of GOES-East (which is positioned over the Equator at 75º W longitude). In addition, see the bottom of this blog post for examples of the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product applied to these storms.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

Automated overshooting top (OT) detection icons (small yellow thunderstorm symbols) are also plotted on the GOES-13 IR images. The initial OT detections began at 20:15 UTC, over the general area where there was later a report of 1.0-inch diameter hail at 20:40 UTC. A comparison of the 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image at 20:15 UTC with a 375-meter (projected onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image at 20:16 UTC (below) demonstrates (1) the advantage of improved spatial resolution for detecting the minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of thunderstorm overshooting tops (-60º C with GOES, vs -75º C with VIIRS), and (2) minimal parallax effect with polar-orbiting satellite imagery such as that from Suomi NPP, for more accurate geolocation of such potentially important storm features.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR and Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR and Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

A comparison of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel and 12.0 µm IR channel images (below) provided a detailed view of the storms at 22:54 UTC, which were electrically very active at that time (producing over 1900 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in a 15-minute period). The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -77º C, located just southwest of Tulsa — this was likely the overshooting top associated with the supercell thunderstorm that produced the fatal tornado.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel and 0.86 µm visible channel images, with METAR surface reports, lightning, and SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel and 0.86 µm visible channel images, with METAR surface reports, lightning, and SPC storm reports

10-km resolution GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (below; click image to play animation) showed the rapid trend in destabilization of the air mass along and south of the frontal boundary, with CAPE values eventually exceeding 4300 J/kg (purple color enhancement).

GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (click to play animaton)

GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (click to play animaton)

10-km resolution GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water (TPW) derived product images (below; click image to play animation) indicated that TPW values of 30 mm or 1.18 inch and greater (yellow enhancement) were present along and south the frontal boundary in northeastern Oklahoma.

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product imagery (click to play animation)

At 19:19 UTC, the 4-km resolution MODIS Total Precipitable Water derived product image (below) showed a plume of moisture with TPW values as high as 41.7 mm or 1.64 inches (red enhancement) moving toward the Tulsa area.

MODIS 0.65 um visible channel and Total Precipitable Water derived product images

MODIS 0.65 um visible channel and Total Precipitable Water derived product images

Additional information about this event can be found at the NWS Tulsa and United States Tornadoes sites.

Solar Eclipse as seen from GOES-13 and NOAA-18

March 20th, 2015
GOES-13 0.65 µm visible channel images (click to enlarge)

GOES-13 0.65 µm visible channel images (click to enlarge)

A total solar eclipse occurred on 20 March before sunrise over the USA. Its appearance on visible imagery from Meteosat-10 was documented here and here. Did GOES-13 also view this event? The imagery above, half-hourly from 0845 through 0945 UTC, shows evidence of darkening (the lunar shadow) initially near 40 N, then a very dark slice in the atmosphere at 0915 UTC and a hint of darkness at 0945 UTC at the extreme limb of the satellite, beyond Iceland. Note also how the terminator in the image, the boundary between day and night, is parallel to longitudinal lines. Happy Equinox!

The shadow of totality was also captured on a NOAA-18 AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel image at 0907 UTC (below). The shadow extends out over the Atlantic Ocean well to the northeast of Newfoundland.

NOAA-18 AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel image

NOAA-18 AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel image

Test of GOES-15 (GOES-West) Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) sectors for the Alaska Region

March 17th, 2015
GOES-15

GOES-15 “Sitka” RSO Sector

During a 4-hour period on 17 March 2015, NOAA/NESDIS conducted a test of two special GOES-15 (GOES-West) Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) sectors for the Alaska Region. From 16:00 to 18:00 UTC, the test was conducted for the “Sitka” sector (above) — and GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images over a portion of that sector (below; click image to play animation) showed the circulation of a mid-latitude cyclone that was producing gale force winds in the eastern portion of the Gulf of Alaska (IR image with surface analysis), as well as clusters of deep convection which were forming along an occluded front approaching from the south.

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible images -

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible images – “Sitka” sector (click to play animation)

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GOES-15

GOES-15 “TPARC” RSO sector

Then from 18:00 to 20:00 UTC, the RSO test was conducted for the “TPARC” sector (above) — and GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed the circulation of two cyclones south of the Aleutian Islands, in addition to a large “banner cloud” and a few mountain waves which had formed downwind (to the north) of the rugged terrain of the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. GOES-15 IR brightness temperatures associated with the banner cloud were as cold as -65 C, which according to the nearby Bethel, Alaska rawinsonde data at 12 UTC corresponded to an altitude of around 27,700 feet (IR image with Bethel Skew-T and surface analysis).

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images -

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images – “TPARC” sector (click to play animation)

Regarding the Alaska Peninsula banner cloud seen on the GOES-15 visible images, a sequence of Terra/Aqua MODIS 11.0 µm and Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR images (below; click image to play animation) showed the evolution of this feature several hours before and after the RSO test. There were a few pilot reports of moderate turbulence, at altitudes as high as 36,000 feet – and some of these pilot reports specifically mentioned “MNT WAVE” in their remarks.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image (click to play animation of VIIRS and MODIS IR images)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image (click to play animation of VIIRS and MODIS IR images)

The CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Top Height product (below; click image to play animation) indicated that the banner cloud reached heights of 9 km (darker green color enhancement).

POES AVHRR Cloud Top Height product (click to play animation)

POES AVHRR Cloud Top Height product (click to play animation)