Cold temperatures in Alaska

January 19th, 2017

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

A NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image (above) showed the signature of cold air (violet colors) settling into river valleys and other low-elevation terrain areas across the cloud-free interior of Alaska at 1916 UTC (10:16 am local time) on 18 January 2017. Note that there was a layer of clouds (warmer cyan colors) over much of the North Slope of Alaska; these clouds were acting to limit strong surface radiational cooling, with resulting surface air temperatures only as cold as the -20s F. This AVHRR image was about 1 hour before the low temperature at Fairbanks International Airport (PAFA) dropped to -51ºF (-46ºC) — the first low of -50ºF or colder at that location since 31 December 1999 (-53ºF). While these were certainly cold temperatures, in general most were several degrees warmer than the daily record lows for 18 January:

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

Closer views centered on Bettles (above) and on Tanana (below) further highlighted the influence of terrain on the pattern of surface infrared brightness temperatures.

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

A comparison of re-mapped 1-km resolution NOAA-18 and “4-km” resolution GOES-15 (GOES-West) Infrared Window imagery (below) demonstrated the spatial resolution advantage of “Low Earth Orbit” (Polar-orbiting) satellites over Geostationary satellites, especially for high-latitude regions such as Alaska. As this plot shows, the true spatial resolution of a “4-km” GOES-15 Infrared image pixel over the interior of Alaska — where that satellite’s viewing angle or “zenith angle” from the Equator is about 74 degrees — is actually closer to 16 km. For the “2-km” Infrared imagery that will be provided by the GOES-R series ABI instrument, the spatial resolution over the interior of Alaska will be closer to 8 km.

NOAA-18 vs GOES-15 Infrared Window images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-18 vs GOES-15 Infrared Window images [click to enlarge]

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NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image, with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

The cold continued across much of Alaska on 19 January, as seen on a NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image at 1519 UTC or 4:19 am local time (above). However with a lack of cloud cover over the central portion of the North Slope, surface air temperatures were much colder (in the -40s F) compared to the -20s F that were seen there on the previous day.

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) image centered on Bettles (PABT), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

As was shown on the previous day, closer views centered on Bettles (above) and on Tanana (below) further highlighted the influence of terrain on the pattern of surface infrared brightness temperatures. On this day a layer of clouds (highlighted by the warmer cyan colors) covered the far eastern portion of the Tanana image below — note that surface temperatures in the Fairbanks area beneath these clouds were only as cold as the -30s F. Farther to the west, which remained cloud-free, the minimum temperature at Tanana was -59ºF.

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images centered on Tanana (PATA), with surface air temperatures and corresponding station identifications [click to enlarge]

Time series plots of surface weather conditions at Fairbanks, Tanana and Bettles during the 18-19 January period are shown below. Note that the surface visibility was periodically restricted 1 statute mile or less, due to ice fog, at all 3 locations.

Surface weather conditions at Fairbanks [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Fairbanks [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Tanana [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Tanana [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Bettles [click to enlarge]

Surface weather conditions at Bettles [click to enlarge]

Atmospheric river events bring heavy precipitation to California

January 13th, 2017

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

A series of 3 atmospheric river events brought heavy rainfall and heavy snowfall to much of California during the first 10 days of January 2017 (NWS San Francisco/Monterey | WeatherMatrix blog). Hourly images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (above; also available as a 33 Mbyte animated GIF) showed the second and third of these atmospheric river events during the 06 January11 January 2017 period, which were responsible for the bulk of the heavy precipitation; these 2 events appear to have drawn moisture northeastward from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)..

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A relatively cloud-free day on 13 January provided a good view of the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay regions. A comparison of Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared  “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images (above) showed that snow cover in the higher terrain of the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevada appeared darker in the Snow/Ice band image (since snow and ice are strong absorbers of radiation at the 2.1 µm wavelength) — but water is an even stronger absorber, and therefore appeared even darker (which allowed the areas of flooding along the Sacramento River and its tributaries to be easily identified). A similar type of 1.6 µm Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” Band imagery will be available from the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series, beginning with GOES-16.

Better detail of the flooded areas of the Sacramento River and its tributaries was seen in 250-meter resolution false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) imagery from the MODIS Today site — water appears as darker shades of blue, while snow appears as shades of cyan (in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds, which appear as shades of white). In the corresponding MODIS true-color image, rivers and bays with high amounts of turbidity (tan shades) were evident; the offshore flow of sediment from a few rivers could also be seen.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

 

Oil well fire in Utah

January 6th, 2017

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

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

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Visible (0.63 µm) images (above) showed a small, short-lived black cloud that formed south/southwest of Vernal (station identifier KVEL) in northeastern Utah on 06 January 2017. This feature was the result of a fire at an oil well site (media report | well location) that apparently started around 11:30 am local time (1830 UTC); the black cloud from the burning oil tanks — which was first apparent on the 1930 UTC visible image — stood out well against the snow-covered ground. The initial northwestward transport of the smoke plume was consistent with lower-tropospheric winds in Grand Junction, Colorado rawinsonde data at 07 January/00 UTC, which showed southeasterly winds as high as 784 hPa (2185 meters or 7169 feet above ground level). The sounding profile also showed that this height was the top of a well-defined temperature inversion, which acted as a cap to prevent the smoke from reaching higher altitudes (photo).

GOES-13 (GOES-East) Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) also displayed the dark smoke plume. The viewing angles from the 2 satellites were similar (~53 degrees from GOES-15 vs ~57 degrees from GOES-13), but the time sampling was slightly better from GOES-15 (due to the extra “SUB-CONUS” scan images at :11 and :41 minutes nearly every hour). Image frequency will be even better with the GOES-R series of satellites (beginning with GOES-16), with routine scans every 5 minutes; the visible image spatial resolution will also be improved (to 0.5 km, vs 1.0 km with the current GOES).

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

MODIS Visible (0.645 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images from a 2036 UTC overpass of the Aqua satellite (below) showed the black smoke cloud in the Visible, but there was no evidence of a fire “hot spot” in the Shortwave Infrared (the media report indicated that the fire was extinguished about 2 hours after it started, which would have been around or just before the time of the MODIS images). On the Infrared Window image, the smoke plume actually did exhibit a slightly colder (darker blue color enhancement) signature, which is unusual since conventional fire and wildfire smoke is normally transparent to thermal radiation.

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.645 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.645 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) images at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

A view of the 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image from the MODIS Today site is shown below.

Aqua MODIS true-color image at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color image at 2036 UTC [click to enlarge]

Turbulence over the central Pacific Ocean

December 27th, 2016
Himawari-8 Water Vapor Imagery (6.2 µm, top; 6.9 µm, middle; 7.3 µm, bottom), 1700-1900 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to enlarge]

Himawari-8 Water Vapor Imagery (6.2 µm, top; 6.9 µm, middle; 7.3 µm, bottom), 1700-1900 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to enlarge]

Turbulence over the Pacific Ocean affected at least one flight on Tuesday 27 December 2016 near 24º N, 162º E, as indicated by a pilot report issued at 1745 UTC:

PGUA UUA /OV 24N 162E/TM 1745/FL340/TP B777/TB MOD-SEV/RM ZOA

In the animation above of the three Himawari-8 Water Vapor bands (sensing radiation emitted at 6.2 µm, 6.9 µm and 7.3 µm), a characteristic banded gravity wave structure is evident which is associated with the pilot report of moderate to severe turbulence (Note: the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series of satellites will feature these same 3 upper level, mid-level and lower level water vapor bands). In contrast to a turbulence event earlier this month, documented here on this blog, the wave features responsible for this turbulence were more distinct in 8-bit McIDAS-X imagery, and were also apparent in all three water vapor bands.

The Himawari-8 satellite data were used in the subsequent issuance of a SIGMET (Significant Meteorological Information) advisory:

WSPA06 PHFO 271824
SIGPAS

KZAK SIGMET SIERRA 1 VALID 271825/272225 PHFO-
OAKLAND OCEANIC FIR MOD OCNL SEV TURB FCST BTN FL280 AND FL360.
WI N2640 E16810 – N2120 E16810 – N2120 E16240 – N2640 E16250
– N2640 E16810. MOV E 25KT. BASED ON ACFT AND SAT.

The full 11-bit McIDAS-V imagery from the 6.2 µm Water Vapor band on Himawari-8, below, shows multiple ephemeral signatures of potential turbulence. In contrast to the event on 14 December, the gravity waves in this event perturbed clouds enough that they were also apparent in the Infrared Window band, as shown in this toggle between the 10.4 µm and 6.2 µm images. Himawari-8 Infrared Window brightness temperatures exhibited by the gravity wave were in the -30º to -40ºC range at 1740 UTC, which roughly corresponded to altitudes of 30,000-34,000 feet according to data from the 12 UTC rawinsonde report from Minamitorishima RJAM (IR image | text) located about 890 km or 550 miles to the west of the wave feature. Additional Himawari-8 Water Vapor images created using AWIPS II are here for the 6.2 µm imagery (from 1720-1740 UTC); this is a toggle between 6.2 µm and 7.3 µm imagery at 1720 UTC.

Himawari-8 Infrared Imagery (6.2 µm), 1600-1900 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to animate]

Himawari-8 Water Vapor (6.2 µm) Imagery, 1600-1900 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to animate]

The superior spatial resolution of Himawari-8 (2-km at the sub-satellite point) was vital in detecting the gravity wave features causing the turbulence. Water Vapor imagery from COMS-1, with a nominal resolution of 4 km, does not show the features associated with the turbulence report.

COMS-1 Infrared Imagery (6.75 µm), 1630-1800 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to animate]

COMS-1 Water Vapor (6.75 µm) Imagery, 1630-1800 UTC on 27 December 2016 [click to animate]

Similarly, HimawariCast data that is broadcast at reduced resolution was insufficient to monitor this event. See the toggle below from 1740 UTC.

Himawari-8 Infrared Imagery (6.2 µm) at 1740 UTC on 27 December 2016, native resolution and as distributed via Himawaricast [click to enlarge]

Himawari-8 Water Vapor (6.2 µm) Imagery at 1740 UTC on 27 December 2016, at native resolution and as distributed via Himawaricast [click to enlarge]