Thunderstorms in Arizona

May 4th, 2015
GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (click to play animation)

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

4-km resolution GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the development and northward propagation of clusters of thunderstorms across Arizona on 04 May 2015. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -49º C (darker red color enhancement). As the storms later organized into a mesoscale convective system, cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were seen to exceed 100 per 15-minute period.

A higher resolution view could be seen in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 0940 UTC or 2:40 AM local time (below). Since the Moon was in the Waning Gibbous phase at 99% of full, this served as a good example of the “visible image at night” capability of the VIIRS Day/Night Band.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR images, with METAR surface reports and 1-hour cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR images, with METAR surface reports and 1-hour cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

One ingredient that aided in the thunderstorm development was rich moisture, as was noted in this excerpt from a NWS Phoenix forecast discussion:

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PHOENIX AZ
840 AM MST MON MAY 4 2015

HOWEVER WHAT WAS NOT SO OBVIOUS…AND A MODEL FAILURE…WAS THE AMOUNT OF BOUNDARY LAYER MOISTURE ADVECTED INTO SOUTHERN AZ FROM MEXICO LATE YESTERDAY AFTERNOON AND NIGHT. JUST LOOK AT THIS MORNINGS TUCSON BALLOON SOUNDING. IT SHOWED AN 800 MB DEWPOINT OF 9 DEG C WHICH LOOKS MONSOONISH. IN OTHER WORDS THE BOUNDARY LAYER MOISTURE THROUGH 700 MB WAS IMPRESSIVE.

This northward transport of moisture could be seen on GOES-15 sounder Total Precipitatble Water (TPW) derived product images (below; click image to play animation); TPW values even exceeded 30 mm or 1.18 inches (yellow color enhancement) as early as 02 UTC on 04 May, reaching a peak of 33.4 mm or 1.3 inches at 04 UTC. A comparison of the Tucson rawinsonde data profiles from 12 UTC on 03 May and 00/12 UTC on 04 May can be seen here — TPW values at that location increased from 13.5 mm (0.53 inch) to 22.3 mm (0.88 inch) during that 24-hour period.

GOES-15 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product images (click to play animation)

Later in the day on 04 May, as thunderstorms moved northward across the Interstate 40 corridor in northeastern Arizona, swaths of rain-cooled wet ground appeared as lighter-gray areas on the Aqua MODIS 11.0 µm IR image at 2008 UTC (below). These swaths of wet soil exhibited IR brightness temperatures that were as much as 10º C cooler than the adjacent dry soil surfaces which were heating up quickly during the early afternoon hours.

Terra (1828 UTC) and Aqua (2008 UTC) MODIS 11.0 µm IR images

Terra (1828 UTC) and Aqua (2008 UTC) MODIS 11.0 µm IR images

The corresponding 2008 UTC Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product (below) made it easier to discriminate between the cooler swaths of wet ground (LST values between 70 and 85º F, shades of green) and the adjacent areas of dry soil (LST values as warm as 100-116º F, darker shades of orange).

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

Calbuco volcanic eruption in Chile

April 23rd, 2015
GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible and 10.7 µm IR channel images at 2138 UTC (with surface reports)

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible and 10.7 µm IR channel images at 2138 UTC (with surface reports)

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted around 2103 UTC or 6:03 pm local time on 22 April 2015. The first good satellite view of the volcanic cloud was provided by the 2138 UTC or 6:38 pm local time GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel and 10.7 µm IR channel images (above). The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature at that time was -65º C, which was very close to the tropopause temperature as indicated on the nearby Puerto Montt rawinsonde reports from 1200 UTC on 22 April and 23 April — the height of the tropopause was between 12.3 and 15.6 km on each day (there were 2 tropopause levels TRO1 and TRO2 coded in both of the upper air reports).

However, before the volcanic cloud was seen, a well-defined thermal anomaly or “hot spot” was evident on the previous GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC or 5:45 pm local time (below). The hottest 3.9 µm IR brightness temperature at that time was 340.8 K (red pixel), which is very close to the saturation temperature of the GOES-13 3.9 µm detectors.

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC

An oblique view of the early stage of the volcanic cloud was captured on a 2100 UTC GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image (below; closer view).

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image at 2100 UTC

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image at 2100 UTC

A sequence of GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed that there was a second explosive eruption that began sometime before the 0508 UTC or 2:08 am local time image on 23 April. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature with this second eruption was -68º C at 0808 UTC. Also, at 0508 UTC mesospheric airglow waves were seen with Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band imagery.

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

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

On the morning of 23 April, a 1200 UTC GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image (below) provided a good view of the large areal coverage of volcanic cloud material resulting from the 2 eruptions.

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image

Finally, a before-eruption (21 April) and post-eruption (23 April) comparison of Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images as visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed the effect of ashfall on some of the higher terrain downwind of Calbuco, which was particularly evident on the snow-capped summits of the Osorno and Puyehue volcanoes (yellow arrows).

Before (21 April) and after (23 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Before (21 April) and after (23 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

—– 24 April Update —–

A series of GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval images from the SSEC Volcano Monitoring site (below; click image to play animation) showed that the ash from each of the two explosive eruptions reached heights of 18-20 km (black color enhancement), which was well into the stratosphere.

GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval values (click to play animation)

GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval values (click to play animation)

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

Severe thunderstorms in the Midwest

April 9th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images, with Cloud-Top Cooling Rate, Overshooting Tops Detection, and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images, with Cloud-Top Cooling Rate, Overshooting Tops Detection, and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

A deepening area of low pressure (21 UTC surface analysis) was moving northeastward across the Midwest region of the US on 09 April 2015; GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images combined with the Cloud-Top Cooling Rate and Overshooting Tops Detection products (above; click image to play animation) showed a line of severe thunderstorms which quickly developed along the associated cold frontal boundary as it moved eastward across Iowa and Missouri during the afternoon hours. Cloud-Top Cooling Rates with some of the storms in Missouri were in excess of 50º C per 15 minutes (violet color enhancement) during their early stage of development (18:25 UTC image).

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 18:51 UTC or 1:51 PM local time (below) showed that the line of thunderstorms was beginning to produce a number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image and 0.64 µm visible channel image with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image and 0.64 µm visible channel image with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Focusing our attention on eastern Iowa and northern Illinois — where there were widespread reports of large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes (SPC storm reports) — the organization of large, discrete supercell thunderstorms can be seen on GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation), which exhibited numerous overshooting tops.

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

The corresponding GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed that the coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were -67º C (darker black enhancement).

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images, with Overshooting Top Detection and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images, with Overshooting Top Detection and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

The NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product (below; click image to play animation) gauges the likelihood of a storm first producing severe weather (of any kind) within the next 60 minutes. It combines information about the environment (Most Unstable CAPE, Environmental Shear) from the Rapid Refresh Model, information about the growing cloud (Vertical Growth Rate as a percentage of the troposphere per minute and Glaciation Rate, also as a percentage per minute), and Maximum Expected Hail Size (MESH) from the MRMS. In this event, the ProbSevere product performed well for the storm that spawned the EF-4 tornado, although due to the cloudiness of the satellite scene the ProbSevere model was unable to diagnose vertical growth rate and glaciation rate (which diminished the potential lead-time). Below is a chronological timeline of events for that storm:

2308 UTC: first ProbSevere > 50%
2310 UTC: first ProbSevere > 70%
2311 UTC: NWS Severe T-Storm Warning
2312 UTC: ProbSevere = 88%
2323 UTC: 1.00″ hail 2 SE Dixson (15 min lead-time for ProbSevere@50, 13 min for ProbSevere@70, 12 min for NWS Svr Warning)
2335 UTC: NWS Tornado Warning (ProbSevere = 94%)
2340 UTC: Tornado report 2 NE Franklin Grove

Radar reflectivity with NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model contours and NWS warning polygons (click to play animation)

Radar reflectivity with NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model contours and NWS warning polygons (click to play animation)

In spite of widespread cloudiness, the GOES-13 Sounder single-field-of-view Lifted Index (LI), Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), and Total Precipitable Water (TPW) derived product images (below) were able to portray that the air mass in the warm sector of the low ahead of the strong cold front was was both unstable — LI values of -4 to -8º C (yellow to red color enhancement) and CAPE values of 3000-4000 J/kg (yellow to red color enhancement) — and rich in moisture, with TPW values of 30-40 mm or 1.2 to 1.6 inches (yellow to red color enhancement).

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted Index derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted Index derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted CAPE derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder CAPE derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Total Precipatable Water (TPW) derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Total Precipatable Water (TPW) derived product images (click to play animation)

On the following day (10 April), it was cloud-free as the Landsat-8 satellite passed over northern Illinois at 16:41 UTC or 11:41 AM local time — and the 30.2 mile long southwest-to-northeast oriented tornado damage path that produced EF-4 damage and was responsible for 2 fatalities and 22 injuries (NWS Chicago event summary) was evident on 15-meter resolution Band 8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible images viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below). An aerial survey of part of the tornado damage path can be seen here.

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of southwestern portion of tornado damage track (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of southwestern portion of tornado damage track (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of northeastern portion of tornado damage path (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of northeastern portion of tornado damage path (click to enlarge)

A Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as Red/Green/Blue) is shown below. The 2 tornado-related fatalities occurred in Fairdale.

Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as R/G/B)

Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as R/G/B)

On a side note, in the cold (northwestern) sector of the low it was cold enough for the precipitation type to be snow — and up to 4 inches of snow fell in western Iowa. GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed the swath of snow cover as it rapidly melted during the daytime hours on 10 April.

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

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

In fact, the swath of snow cover across eastern Nebraska and western/northern Iowa was also evident on a Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (DNB) image at 08:49 UTC or 3:39 AM local time (below), highlighting the “visible image at night” capability of the DNB (given ample illumination from the Moon).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image