Lake effect cloud plume formation over the Great Salt Lake

April 4th, 2017 |

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-16 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-13 (0.63 µm, right), with hourly surface reports plotted in yellow [click to play animation]

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-16 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-13 (0.63 µm, right), with hourly surface reports plotted in yellow [click to play animation]

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

As discussed in more detail on the VISIT Meteorological Interpretation Blog, a small lake effect cloud plume formed over the southern portion  of the Great Salt Lake in northern Utah on 04 February 2017. A comparison of early morning Visible images from the GOES-15 (GOES-West), GOES-16 and GOES-13 (GOES-East) satellites (above; also available as an MP4 animation) showed the advantage of improved spatial and temporal resolution provided by the GOES-16 0.64 µm “Red visible” band for depicting the evolution of this feature (which was responsible for some brief inland snow showers). The images are displayed in the native projection of each satellite.

Several hours prior to the formation of the lake effect cloud band, the MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product (below) indicated that mid-lake water temperatures were as warm as 48ºF.

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

Heavy Rains over southern California

February 28th, 2017 |

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

The GOES-15 Water Vapor animation, above, shows a potent cold front moving through southern California late on 27 February. This front that passed through San Diego at 0500 UTC on 28 February (9 PM PST) was accompanied by abundant precipitation, the heaviest rainfall in 13 years at the San Diego airport (link), with widespread 2+-inch rains that caused power outages and flooding. The image below (from this site), shows the 24-hours precipitation ending at 1200 UTC on 28 February 2017. Values in excess of 6″ occurred in the mountains east of San Diego.

Accumulated Precipitation for 24 hours ending 1200 UTC on 28 February 2017 [click to enlarge]

Accumulated Precipitation for 24 hours ending 1200 UTC on 28 February 2017 [click to play animation]

Hourly MIMIC Total Precipitable Water estimates for the 72 hours ending 1400 UTC on 28 February 2017 [click to enlarge]

Hourly MIMIC Total Precipitable Water estimates for the 72 hours ending 1400 UTC on 28 February 2017 [click to play animation]

Satellite estimates of Total Precipitable Water (TPW) suggested that heavy rains were likely. MIMIC total precipitable water plots, above (source), show a moisture source that tapped the rich moisture of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. NOAA/NESDIS Blended Precipitable Water Percent-of-Normal plots (source, at this site), shown below, show values exceeding 200% of normal over southern California. Both MIMIC and Blended TPW products offer excellent situational awareness.

NOAA/NESDIS Blended Total Precipitable Water Percent-of-Normal, times as indicated [click to play animation]

NOAA/NESDIS Blended Total Precipitable Water Percent-of-Normal, times as indicated

An interesting aspect of the GOES-15 Water Vapor animation, at the top of this post, is the appearance of land features. The spine of the mountains over Baja California appears throughout the animation, for example, as does the Front Range of the Rockies from Colorado southward to New Mexico. Should land features be visible in water vapor imagery? An answer to that lies in computed weighting functions, shown below (from this site), that describe from where in the atmosphere energy at a particular wavelength is being detected by the satellite.

At the start of the water vapor animation, near 0000 UTC, thick clouds cover southern California (and the sounding from San Diego shows saturated conditions); dry layers in the sounding appear by 1200 UTC. The 7.4 µm weighting function shows that information is detected by the satellite from lower down in the atmosphere; energy detected at 6.5 µm comes from higher in the atmosphere. This difference arises because of the better absorptive qualities of water vapor gas for 6.5 µm radiation vs. 7.4 µm radiation. By 1200 UTC, sufficient drying has occurred that the 7.4 µm Sounder Channel is detecting radiation that emanates from sea level. Note also at 1200 UTC that each individual moist layer influences the weighting function — but there is insufficient moisture at 1200 UTC in those moist layers that they are opaque to energy at either 6.5 µm or 7.4 µm.

Note: GOES-R Series satellites, including GOES-16, have ‘water vapor’ channels at 6.2 µm, 6.9 µm and 7.3 µm.

Water Vapor Weighting Functions at 72293 (San Diego) for GOES Imager (6.5 µm) (Black Line) and GOES Sounder (7.4 µm) (Red Line) at 0000 UTC 27 February (Left) and 1200 UTC 28 February (Right). The Sounding for San Diego is also indicated [click to enlarge]

Water Vapor Weighting Functions at 72293 (San Diego) for GOES Imager (6.5 µm) (Black Line) and GOES Sounder (7.4 µm) (Red Line) at 0000 UTC 27 February (Left) and 1200 UTC 28 February (Right). The Sounding for San Diego is also indicated [click to enlarge]

Tule fog in California

January 31st, 2017 |


The tweet shown above was issued by the NWS forecast office in Hanford, California — using an image of the GOES-15 Low Instrument Flight Rules (LIFR) Probability, a component of the GOES-R Fog/low stratus suite of products — to illustrate where areas of dense Tule fog persisted into the morning hours on 31 January 2017.

AWIPS II images of the GOES-15 Marginal Visual Flight Rules (MVFR) product (below) showed the increase in areal coverage of Tule fog beginning at 0600 UTC (10 pm local time on 30 January); the fog eventually dissipated by 2030 UTC (12:30 pm local time) on 31 January. Note that Lemoore Naval Air Station (identifier KNLC) reported freezing fog at 14 UTC (their surface air temperature had dropped to 31º F that hour). In addition, some of the higher MVFR Probability values were seen farther to the north, along the Interstate 5 corridor between Stockton (KSCK) and Sacramento (KSAC) — numerous traffic accidents and school delays were attributed to the Tule fog on this day.

GOES-15 MVFR Probability product [click to play animation]

GOES-15 MVFR Probability product [click to play animation]

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GOES-15 MVFR Probability and Aqua MODIS Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (BTD) products [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 MVFR Probability and Aqua MODIS Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (BTD) products [click to enlarge]

Legacy infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (BTD) products are limited in their ability to accurately detect fog/low stratus features if high-level cirrus clouds are present overhead. This is demonstrated in comparisons of GOES-15 MVFR Probability and BTD products from Aqua MODIS (above) and Suomi NPP VIIRS (below). Again, note the Interstate-5 corridor between Stockton and Sacramento, where the extent of the fog was not well-depicted on the BTD images (even using high spatial resolution polar-orbiter MODIS and VIIRS data).

GOES-15 MVFR Probability and Suomi NPP VIIRS infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (BTD) products [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 MVFR Probability and Suomi NPP VIIRS infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (BTD) products [click to enlarge]

Daylight images of GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) data (below) showed the dissipation of the Tule fog during the 1600-2200 UTC (8 am – 2 pm local time) period. The brighter white snow pack in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada was also very evident in the upper right portion of the satellite scene.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

One ingredient contributing to this Tule fog event was moist soil, from precipitation (as much as 150-200% of normal at some locations in the Central Valley) that had been received during the previous 14-day period (below).

Total liquid precipitation and Percent of normal precipitation for the 14-day period ending on 31 January 2017 [click to enlarge]

Total liquid precipitation and Percent of normal precipitation for the 14-day period ending on 31 January 2017 [click to enlarge]

Portland, Oregon heavy snow event

January 11th, 2017 |

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

A surface low moving inland (3-hourly surface analyses) helped to produce widespread rain and snow across much of Oregon and southern Washington during the 10 January11 January 2017 period. 4-km resolution GOES-15 (GOES-West) Infrared images (above) and Water Vapor images (below) showed the development of a deformation band that helped to focus and prolong moderate to heavy snowfall over the Portland, Oregon area (accumulations | historical perspective). The GOES-15 images are centered at Portland International Airport (station identifier KPDX).

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

1-km resolution GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) during the last few hours of daylight on 10 January revealed the shadowing and textured signature of numerous embedded convective elements moving inland, which were helping to enhance precipitation rates (and even produce thundersnow at a few locations, a phenomenon which is very unusual for the Pacific Northwest).

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly reports of surface weather type [click to play animation]

===== 12 January Update =====

As clouds cleared in the wake of the storm, a comparison of 375-meter resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images viewed using RealEarth (below) revealed the extent of the snow cover; snow appears as shades of cyan in the false-color image, in contrast to clouds which appear as shades of white. [Note: with 5 inches of snow remaining on the ground, a new record low temperature was set in Portland on 13 January]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

The fresh snowfall was also apparent in a 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 false-color RGB image (below) along the south face of Mount Hood (located about 98 miles or 158 km east of Portland). The ski slopes of Timberline Lodge and  Mount Hood Meadows received 13-14 inches of new snow during this event; the snow base depth at Timberline was greater than the average amount for this time of year.

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to play zoom-in animation]

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to play zoom-in animation]