Severe thunderstorms in northwestern Kansas

August 5th, 2013 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images with overshooting top detection icons (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images with overshooting top detection icons (click image to play animation)

 

AWIPS images of 1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images with automated overshooting top detection icons (above; click image to play animation) showed the development of a large mesoscale convective system across northwestern Kansas during the afternoon hours on 05 August 2013. Note that the surface air temperature at Goodland, Kansas (KGLD) dropped from 91º F at 19 UTC to 69º F at 20 UTC (with southeasterly winds gusting to 34 knots).

4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with automated overshooting top detection icons (below; click image to play animation) revealed the formation of a very broad and well-defined “enhanced-V” storm top signature, with cloud-top IR brightness temperatures becoming as cold as -80º C at 23:15 UTC. Overshooting top detection began after 19:45 UTC, once GOES-13 cloud-top IR brightness temperatures became -71º C or colder.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with overshooting top detection icons (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with overshooting top detection icons (click image to play animation)

During the early stages of convective development, GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images combined with 15-minute cloud top cooling rates (below) showed the development of significant cloud top cooling rates along the Colorado/Kansas border area at 18:15 UTC (prior to the formation of weak, brief landspout tornadoes just northeast of Goodland, Kansas during the 18:28-18:40 UTC period) — a maximum cloud top cooling rate of 35.3º C in 15 minutes was detected at 18:45 UTC.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with Cloud Top Cooling Rates

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with Cloud Top Cooling Rates

A comparison of 1-km resolution Soumi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 4.-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm images (below) demonstrated the ability of higher spatial resolution VIIRS data to detect much colder IR brightness temperatures associated with the more vigorous overshooting tops (-82º C on VIIRS, vs -71º C on GOES). In addition, a northwestward GOES image parallax shift was seen, due to to the large viewing angle of the GOES-13 satellite positioned at 75º W longitude. Shortly after the time of these images, this storm produced hail of 1.0 inch in diameter at 20:11, 20:21, and 20:54 UTC (SPC storm reports)

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

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

Comparisons of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Height products at 20:21 UTC (above) and 21:16 UTC (below) showed that the coldest cloud top temperatures (-85º C and -87º C, respectively) were seen in regions where the maximum cloud top height values were generally around 15 km. It is likely that the most vigorous overshooting tops associated with the coldest cloud top temperature values were as much as 2-3 km higher than this mean 15 km thunderstorm anvil cloud top height. Conversely, cloud top height values were around 13 km in the “warm wake” region immediately downwind of the coldest overshooting tops.

Severe weather in the Oklahoma City area

May 31st, 2013 |
GOES-14 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) product (click image to play animation)

GOES-14 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) product (click image to play animation)

Only 11 days after the devastating EF-5 tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, another round of severe weather brought tornadoes (including the EF-5 El Reno tornado) large hail (up to 2.5 inches in diameter), damaging winds (gusts as high as 87 mph), and heavy rain that led to flash flooding to the Oklahoma City area on 31 May 2013 (SPC storm reports| NWS Norman summary). AWIPS images of the 10-km resolution GOES-14 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product (above; click image to play animation) showed the trend of rapid destabilization across the region during the hours leading up to convective initiation — widespread CAPE values in the 5000-6000 J/kg range were seen (lighter purple color enhancement).

Once convective initiation began the storm growth was explosive, as revealed by McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-14 0.63 µm visible channel data (below; click image to play animation; also available as a QuickTime movie). The GOES-14 satellite had been placed into Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode, providing images as frequently as every 5-10 minutes. Complex storm-top structures were evident in the visible imagery, including numerous overshooting tops and anvil gravity waves. In addition, later in the animation a smoke plume can be seen approaching from the west (originating from a large fire that was burning in New Mexico). OKC denotes the location of Oklahoma City.

GOES-14 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-14 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

Not long after the first large thunderstorms began to develop west of Oklahoma City, a 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image (below) displayed cloud-top IR brightness temperatures as cold as -78º C at 21:51 UTC or 4:51 PM local time (shortly before the first report of 1.25-inch diameter hail at 21:59 UTC). A 1-km resolution AVHRR vs 4-km resolution GOES-14 IR image comparison demonstrated two important advantages of polar-orbiter satellite imagery: (1) more accurate depiction of the coldest overshooting tops (-78º C on AVHRR, vs -64º C on with GOES-14), and (2) limited parallax error, helping to more accurately determine the true location of the overshooting tops.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image

AWIPS image combinations of GOES-14 10.7 µm IR channel data with overlays of Cloud Top Cooling (CTC) Rate and Overstooting Top (OT) Detection products (below; click image to play animation) showed the following: (1) the first region of significant CTC that was flagged with the newly-developing Oklahoma City storm was at 21:15 UTC, with a CTC rate of -8.8º C compared to the previous GOES-14 IR image; (2) the CTC rate increased to -26.9º C for the following 21:25 UTC IR image; (3) the CTC rate jumped to a remarkable -60.2º C for the following 21:32 UTC IR image (an indicator of the explosive rate of storm development); (4) OT detection icons began to appear once GOES-14 IR images exhibited IR brightness temperature values of -60º C and colder (beginning at 21:55 UTC).

GOES-14 10.7 µm IR image + Cloud Top Cooling Rate and Overshooting Top Detection products (click image to play animation)

GOES-14 10.7 µm IR image + Cloud Top Cooling Rate and Overshooting Top Detection products (click image to play animation)

===== 02 June Update =====

A comparison of before/after (14 May/02 June) 250-meter resolution true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) showed the damage path from the 31 May El Reno, Oklahoma tornado. The lakes and rivers appear brighter on the 02 June image due to sun glint off the bodies of water (the sun-satellite geometry was different than it was on 14 May).

Before/after (14 May/02 June) MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

Before/after (14 May/02 June) MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

The tornado damage path is also highlighted on the 02 June MODIS true-color RGB image, viewed using Google Earth (below).

MODIS true-color RGB image (viewed using Google Earth)

MODIS true-color RGB image (viewed using Google Earth)

Mesoscale Convective System in the Gulf of Mexico

April 3rd, 2013 |
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11 µm IR (Click image to toggle)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11 µm IR (Click image to toggle)

One of the first strong Mesoscale Convective Systems of the Spring Season traversed the Gulf of Mexico during the day on April 3rd. Suomi/NPP VIIRS imagery of the 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and the 11.45 µm IR channel, from 0722 UTC, above, showed elements that are characteristic of these convective features. For example, the thick convective clouds were able to obscure most of the city lights of southern Louisiana on the Day/Night Band image, and the 11.45 µm IR imagery showed very cold cloud tops — colder than -80 C — over the Gulf of Mexico, along with evidence of cloud-top gravity waves over southern Louisiana (and the adjacent coastal waters) as well as over east Texas.

The active convection was generating considerable lightning activity: there were 1275 negative and 186 positive cloud-to-ground (CG) strikes detected over the region within a 15-minute period. Cloud tops illuminated by lightning were depicted as bright smears of light in the Day/Night Band (DNB) image, indicative of the very fast VIIRS sensor scanning motion. Of particular interest was a pair long black streaks immediately downstream of two large areas of lightning-illuminated cloud tops: one over Louisiana, and another farther south over the Gulf of Mexico (magnified image). These black lines represented a post-saturation “recovery period” after the DNB sensor detected very bright areas associated with intense lightning activity. It is also important to note that there is not always a direct correspondence between DNB image cloud-top lightning signatures and clusters of CG lightning activity — only one positive GC strike was seen close to the bright Louisiana DNB image lightning streak, while numerous negative and positive CG strikes were in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico DNB lightning streak.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (Click image to toggle)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (Click image to toggle)

A toggle between the high-resolution (1 km) Suomi/NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR imagery and the nominal 4-km imagery of the 10.7 µm IR from the GOES-13 Imager, above, demonstrates the importance of higher spatial resolution in detecting features that are important to aviation. Only the Suomi/NPP VIIRS image cleanly depicts the transverse bands that herald the potential presence of turbulence in the cirrus canopy.

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and auto-detected Overshooting Tops

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and auto-detected Overshooting Tops

Despite limitations related to resolution, GOES data can be used to automatically detect overshooting tops. The image above shows the GOES 10.7 µm image from AWIPS. Auto-detected overshooting tops are also shown, and they are spread out along the southern flank of this convective system, a region where convective development was ongoing. (Click here to see a toggle between the 10.7 µm image with and without the auto-detected overshooting tops). That persistent convective growth was also shown by the UW Cloud-top Cooling product, shown below, a product that highlights the most rapidly cooling growing convective towers.

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and Computed Cloud-Top Cooling (Click image to animate)

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and Computed Cloud-Top Cooling (Click image to animate)

Four Channels of MODIS imagery from 1841 UTC on 3 April (Click image to animate)

Four Channels of MODIS imagery from 1841 UTC on 3 April (Click image to animate)

The convective system has persisted through the early afternoon on April 3rd, as shown in the loop of different MODIS channels, above (including the visible, water vapor, cirrus channel, and 10.7 µm IR). This system is unusually far south into the Gulf of Mexico for early April.

Mesoscale Convective Vortex in northwestern Arkansas

June 4th, 2012 |
GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images + 0.63 µm visible images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images + 0.63 µm visible images (click image to play animation)

A large Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) developed over far northeastern Oklahoma during the pre-dawn hours on 04 June 2012, which eventually produced a Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) that moved into northwestern Arkansas the following morning. AWIPS images of 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (at night) followed by 1-km resolution  GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images during the day (above) showed the large nocturnal canopy of cold clouds (with cloud-top IR brightness temperatures as cold as -76º C at 05:01 UTC) — then the dissipating convection revealed the cyclonic circulation of the MCV during the late morning hours. As the atmosphere destabilized with daytime heating, new thunderstorms were seen to develop in the vicinity of the MCV as it moved toward Little Rock, Arkansas (station identifier KLIT).

A comparison of a 1-km resolution MODIS 11.0 µm IR image with the corresponding 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image at 08:15 UTC or 3:15 AM local time (below) demonstrated that finer-scale cloud top details (such as subtle anvil-top gravity waves) were apparent on the higher resolution MODIS image.  Note that the satellite features are displaced slightly to the northwest on the GOES-13 IR images — this is due to parallax error resulting from the large viewing angle from the GOES-East satellite.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image

These anvil-top gravity waves were even more evident on a comparison of 1-km resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) images at 08:42 UTC or 3:42 AM local time (below). A full moon provided excellent illumination of the thunderstorm cloud top, allowing an very good night-time view of the subtle overshooting top and gravity wave structures (just as they might be seen on a daytime visible image). In addition, note that the city lights of the Wichita, Kansas area could be seen through the thin veil of cloud top cirrus along the northwestern edge of the storm.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel + 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel + 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

As the MCV was approaching the Little Rock area, the CIMSS Cloud Top Cooling Rate product detected CTC rates in excess of 20º C per 15 minutes, just as the thunderstorms began to produce their first cloud-to-ground lightning strike at 17:45 UTC (below). This cluster of thunderstorms was responsible for a few reports of hail and damaging winds as it continued to move southeastward across Arkansas during the afternoon hours (SPC storm reports).

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images + Cloud Top Cooling Rate + Cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images + Cloud Top Cooling Rate + Cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

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GOES-13/GOES-15 Sounder DPI Total Precipitable Water (click image to play animation)

GOES-13/GOES-15 Sounder DPI Total Precipitable Water (click image to play animation)

MCVs typically are sustained in regions of low shear and abundant moisture. A plot of 850-500 mb shear from the NAM for 1800 UTC on 4 June show very low values of vertical wind shear in place over Arkansas. GOES Sounder DPI Total Precipitable water (the loop above) shows that the MCV developed in an axis of enhanced moisture. The blended TPW product (a product that blends together GOES Sounder and GPS measurements of precipitable water) shows an axis of values at or above 100% of normal through the mid-south where the MCV formed.

A visible image loop (every half-hour) from June 4 2012 that shows the evolution of the system is below.

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

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