Severe thunderstorms, as viewed by 4 GOES

August 2nd, 2017 |
GOES-15, GOES-14, GOES-16 and G0ES-13 Visible images, with SPC storm reports of hail size plotted in red [click to play animation]

GOES-15, GOES-14, GOES-16 and G0ES-13 Visible images, with SPC storm reports of hail size plotted in red [click to play animation]

* GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational and are undergoing testing *

With a Severe Thunderstorm Watch in place, storms developed over far northeastern Colorado late in the day on 02 August 2017 which produced hail as large as 2.0 inches in diameter (SPC storm reports). Since GOES-14 (which had been placed into on-orbit storage as a spare satellite) was briefly activated for testing and evaluation, it afforded the unusual opportunity to view these storms from 4 different GOES perspectives (above). The Visible images (0.63 µm for the 3 legacy GOES, and 0.64 µm for GOES-16) are displayed in the native projections for each satellite.

A closer look using a higher image zoom factor (below) helps to demonstrate the advantage of higher spatial resolution with the GOES-16 0.64 µm “Red” Visible band (0.5 km at satellite sub-point, vs 1.0 km for the 3 legacy GOES) — especially for clearly identifying features such as thunderstorm overshooting tops. Also note that the 3 legacy GOES visible images do not appear as bright as those from GOES-16; visible imagery from GOES degrades with time, and older GOES Imager instruments do not have on-board calibration to account for this. However, the GOES-16 ABI instrument does have on-board visible detector calibration, so dimming of visible imagery over time should not be as noticeable.

GOES-15, GOES-14, GOES-16 and GOES-13 Visible images, with SPC storm reports of hail size plotted in red [click to play animation]

GOES-15, GOES-14, GOES-16 and GOES-13 Visible images, with SPC storm reports of hail size plotted in red [click to play animation]

Hurricane Dora

June 26th, 2017 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

** GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational data and are undergoing testing **

Dora became the first hurricane of the Eastern Pacific 2017 season on 26 June, and was also the first hurricane to be sampled by GOES-16. On Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above), Dora displayed an improving appearance as the day progressed — mesovortices were seen within the eye on Visible imagery, while the overall eye/eyewall structure improved as the eye diameter increased on Infrared Window imagery.

Early in the morning, a comparison between DMSP-17 SSMIS Microwave (85 GHz) and GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images from the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones site (below) showed  that a well-defined eye was more apparent on microwave imagery. Dora was moving over fairly warm Sea Surface Temperatures, and was also in an environment characterized by low values of deep-layer wind shear.

DMSP-17 SSMIS Microwave (85 GHz) and GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

DMSP-17 SSMIS Microwave (85 GHz) and GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Middle/upper-level deformation zone over the East Pacific Ocean?

May 23rd, 2017 |

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

An interesting linear feature appeared over the East Pacific Ocean on GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) on 23 May 2017, which at first glance immediately nominated it for the “What the heck is this?” blog category. A contrail was ruled out, since it was not oriented along a common or busy flight route — so potential large-scale dynamic processes were briefly investigated. Since the linear feature was perpendicular to the busy California/Hawaii flight route, pilot reports of turbulence are plotted on the water vapor images; two reports of light turbulence at altitudes of 33,000-34,000 feet (at 0918 and 1109 UTC) appeared to be close enough to have possibly been related to the linear feature.

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of satellite wind derived upper-level divergence [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of satellite wind derived Upper-Level Divergence [click to enlarge]

Satellite atmospheric motion vector (AMV) derived products such as Upper-Level Divergence (above) calculated at 3-hour intervals (source) revealed an area of divergence focused near the area of the linear satellite image feature — around 30º N, 140º W, at the center of the images — which reached its peak intensity at 12 UTC; this suggested that the feature may have formed along the axis of the sharp deformation zone between two upper-level lows over the East Pacific Ocean (mid/upper level winds | 200 hPa Vorticity product).

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor (6.5 µm, top; 7.0 µm, middle; 7.5 µm, bottom) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor (6.5 µm, top; 7.0 µm, middle; 7.5 µm, bottom) images [click to enlarge]

Unfortunately, this region was not within the view of Himawari-8 or GOES-16 (each of which provide 2-km resolution water vapor imagery at 3 atmospheric levels). However, the GOES-15 sounder instrument has 3 similar water vapor bands (above) — albeit at a more coarse 10-km spatial resolution at satellite sub-point — which showed the linear “deformation axis cloud signature” at all 3 levels of the atmosphere. The GOES-15 sounder water vapor weighting functions for a “typical” US Standard Atmosphere are shown below.

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor band weighting functions [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor band weighting functions [click to enlarge]

Mountain waves over the Sierra Nevada

April 13th, 2017 |

GOES-16 7.3 µm (left), 6.9 µm (center) and 6.2 µm (right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-16 7.3 µm (left), 6.9 µm (center) and 6.2 µm (right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

 ** The GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational data and are undergoing testing. **

A comparison of GOES-16 Lower-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (above) revealed the presence of numerous mountain waves over parts of California and Nevada on 13 April 2017. The more pronounced of these waves were caused by strong southwesterly winds interacting with  higher terrain of the Sierra Nevada.

A 3-satellite comparison of GOES-15 (GOES-West), GOES-16 and GOES-13 (GOES-East) Water Vapor images (below) highlighted 2 factors that allowed better detection of these mountain waves by GOES-16 — improved spatial resolution (2 km for GOES-16 at satellite sub-point, vs 4 km for GOES-15/13), and a more direct satellite viewing angle (GOES-16 is positioned at 105ºW longitude, while GOES-15 is at 135ºW and GOES-13 is at 75ºW).

OES-15 (6.5 µm, left), GOES-16 (6.9 µm, center) and GOES-13 (6.5 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (6.5 µm, left), GOES-16 (6.9 µm, center) and GOES-13 (6.5 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

Note that there were no Visible cloud features associated with many of the waves seen on Water Vapor imagery (below); encounters of Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) often occur with these types of mountain waves, as seen by scattered pilot reports of moderate turbulence (plotted as Category 4).

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left) and Water Vapor (6.9 µm, right) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left) and Water Vapor (6.9 µm, right) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]