GOES-14 Visible (0.6263 µm) Imagery, 04 June 2015. 1-minute imagery on the left, 5-minute imagery on the right (click to play animation)
Beavertails are ephemeral cloud features that form in the inflow of supercell thunderstorms. They are horizontally long and roughly parallel to the inflow warm front. Its appearance (and presence) is affected by and influences inflow into the storm, and by inference, it affects radar returns. That is — a change in the Beavertail cloud can precede a change in radar. Accurate detection of this cloud type, then, aids the understanding of evolving storm morphology. The animation above shows a severe convective system over southeastern Wyoming, viewed at 1-minute intervals (Left) and at 5-minute intervals. Beavertails that form persist for about 30 minutes, so 5-minute imagery will resolve them; however, the resolution of the 1-minute data is far better to monitor the small changes in size and shape that are related to storm inflow.
Do beavertail changes affect the radar? The animation below shows the ProbSevere product readout from 2000-2220 UTC (Courtesy John Cintineo, CIMSS) (Click here for a slow animation). (Click here for an animation (from 1918-2058 UTC) that includes warning polygons). The increases and decreases in the MRMS MESH appear unrelated to the formation/decay of the various beavertails.
NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere Product, 2000-2020 UTC on 4 June 2015 (click to play animation)
This storm was captured by different chasers. This YouTube video from Scott Longmore shows the evolution of the convective system from the ground. Hat/tip to Jennifer Laflin, NWS EAX and Chad Gravelle, OPG, for alerting us to this case.
GOES-13 Imager 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)
Visible imagery after sunrise on 3 June 2015 over Kansas, above, shows the parallel lines of low clouds that characterize a bore feature. As the bore penetrated southward, winds initially shifted before becoming more variable. Bore propagation requires the presence of an inversion, and 1200 UTC Soundings from both Dodge City and from Topeka contain inversions. Because inversions are present, it is unusual for convection to form in the presence of a bore.
The initial southward push the became the bore may have emerged from strong convection over central Nebraska early in the morning of 3 June. Suomi NPP VIIRS imagery captured that convection; the Day Night Band (under near-Full Moon conditions) and 11.45 µm infrared imagery, below, show the strong convection at 0848 UTC on 3 June 2015).
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.70 µm visible Day Night Band and 11.45 µm infrared imagery at 0848 UTC on 3 June 2015 (click to play animation)
GOES-14 was performing SRSO-R observations over Kansas on 3 June. One-minute imagery of the bore evolution is available here in animated gif format (74 M in size) and here in mp4 format (2.8M in size). The YouTube video is embedded below.
GOES-15 Imager 6.5 µm water vapor infrared channel images from May 2015 (click to play animation)
Historically heavy rains fell over the southern Plains in May of 2015, with numerous stations setting record monthly rainfall marks. For example, Oklahoma City reported 19.48″ of rain in May 2015; the previous record wet month was 14.66″, set in June 1989 (14.52″ of rain fell in May 2013). The three-hourly water vapor imagery, above (Click here for mp4 file; the animated gif above exceeds 90 M), from GOES-13 shows repeated thunderstorm development over western OK and western Texas that subsequently moved east. Persistent southwesterly flow is also apparent. In comparison, three-hourly water vapor imagery from GOES-13 for May 2014, below (Click here for mp4 file), shows less frequent convection and more northwesterly flow. Widespread convection is much less frequent over the Plains in May 2014 (a month that saw 4.44″ of rain fall in Oklahoma City).
GOES-15 Imager 6.5 µm water vapor infrared channel images from May 2014 (click to play animation)
The mean 6.5 channel GOES-13 Brightness Temperature for May 2015 was more than 2 degrees cooler than in May 2014 (237.2 K in 2015 vs. 239.6 K in 2014). It should not be surprising that the top of the moist layer in 2015 was higher (cooler) than in 2014.
GOES-14 remained in Super Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSO-R) demonstration mode on 21 May 2015, providing 1-minute images for much of the eastern US (see this blog post) — and another interesting feature was seen over eastern Tennessee that was rather perplexing. Since this easily qualified for the “What the heck is this?” blog category, we thought it might be fun to have a contest of sorts and invite readers to submit their wild guesses and/or educated explanations. We will post more imagery later in the day on 22 May as to our explanation — but in the meantime, leave a comment on the blog (comments are moderated, so they will not appear until approved), or send your thoughts to our Twitter account.
—– 22 May Update —–
Thanks to all who submitted their suggestions here and on Twitter of an explanation of the “What the heck is this” feature; Here is our best guess:
GOES-13 (GOES-East) visible, 3.9 µm shortwave IR, 6.5 µm, and 10.7 µm IR images [click to play animation]
The first step in trying to understand what might be causing this interesting feature was to examine 4-panel images showing imagery from other GOES channels (or spectral bands): in this case, the 3.9 µm “shortwave IR” channel, the 6.5 µm “water vapor” channel, and the 10.7 µm “IR window channel” (above; click image to play animation). The 3.9 µm IR brightness temperatures of cloud features were in the +20 to +25º range, while the 10.7 µm IR brightness temperatures were in the +3 to +5º C range — the significantly warmer shortwave IR temperatures indicates that the clouds were comprised of liquid or supercooled cloud droplets. Otherwise, no significant clues were seen on the IR (or the water vapor) images.
However, the METAR surface reports offer an important clue: a rain shower moved from southwest to northeast through the region during the preceding overnight hours with the passage of a weak low pressure system (surface analyses), with Knoxville (station identifier KTYS) receiving 0.23″ and Oak Ridge (KOQT) receiving 0.10″ of rainfall (radar-estimated 24-hour precipitation). Therefore, one plausible explanation of the feature seen on visible imagery is that it was a shallow pool of stable, rain-cooled air near the surface that was spreading out and flowing downslope (westward) into the Great Valley of East Tennessee during the morning and early afternoon hours.
While the outer edges of this rain-cooled stable air feature remained generally cloud-free, the inner core exhibited a good deal of cloud development (including what appeared to be a more dense northwest-to-southeast oriented cloud band through the middle). An overlay of hourly RTMA surface winds (below; click image to play animation) indicated that there was convergence within the feature (to the lee of higher terrain within the Cumberland Plateau), which along with daytime heating of the moist soil would have helped to promote such shallow cloud development.
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with RTMA surface winds [click to play animation]
For clouds within expanding the rain-cooled boundary at 1534 UTC, the CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Type was liquid, with Cloud Top Height values of 1-3 km and Cloud Top Temperature values of +2 to +10º C (below).
CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Type, Cloud Top Height, and Cloud Top Temperature products