Severe Weather in the Pacific Northwest

October 15th, 2016

Window Channel Infrared imagery from COMS-1 (10.8 µm) and GOES-15 (10.7 µm), every 6 hours from 1200 UTC on 7 October through 1800 UTC on 15 October [click to animate]

Infrared Window Channel imagery from COMS-1 (10.8 µm) and GOES-15 (10.7 µm), every 6 hours from 1200 UTC on 7 October through 1800 UTC on 15 October [click to animate]

Strong moisture-laden storms caused abundant precipitation and severe weather over the Pacific Northwest from 13-15 October 2016. The animation above shows two storms making landfall in the Pacific Northwest, one on 13-14 October and a second, on 15 October, which was a storm that originated from the remnants of Typhoon Songda. On 11-12 October, Super Typhoon Songda was recurving, subsequently racing towards the west coast of the United States, and making landfall as a strengthening extratropical cyclone on 15 October. The animation above uses two different satellites (COMS-1 and GOES-15), and includes a seam between the two views because the spectral characteristics of the two infrared window bands are not identical.

Daily precipitation from the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Center from 13-15 October is shown here, with a weekly total shown below. A large area of precipitation exceeding 6 inches is apparent in the higher terrain.

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7-day Precipitation Totals ending 1200 UTC on 15 October 2016 (Click to enlarge)

The precipitation amounts were aided by the very moist airmass that accompanied the storms. Total Precipitable Water, shown below, from this site that manipulates data from here, shows the moisture. A larger-scale view that traces the moisture back to the time when Songda first reached typhoon intensity over the West Pacific is available here.

Total Precipitable Water, 12-15 October 2016 [Click to animate]

The strong storm before the one spawned by the remnants of Songda produced an EF2-rated tornado in Manzanita Oregon (YouTube Compilation; SPC Storm Reports; Blog post with damage picture) on 14 October 2016. GOES-15 Visible Imagery, below, shows a storm with overshooting tops moving over northwestern Oregon at the time of the tornado. (GOES-15 was performing a full-disk scan from 15:00-15:26 UTC, so 15-imagery was not available as the tornado moved ashore; the Advanced Baseline Imager on GOES-R will produce CONUS Imagery every 5 minutes in addition to Full-Disk Imagery every 15 minutes). The overshoots are especially apparent in the 1500 and 1530 UTC Images. GOES-13 provided a visible image at about the time of the tornado touchdown, but at a very oblique angle. The cirrus shield of the thunderstorm anvil is apparent, however.

GOES-15 Visible (0.62 µm) imagery, 1445, 1500 and 1530 UTC on 14 October. The Red Square indicates the tornado location [Click to animate]

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) imagery around the time of the severe weather in Oregon, below — which includes locations of SPC storm reports of tornadoes (red) and damaging winds (cyan) — also showed evidence of cold overshooting tops (the coldest clouds tops were around -50º C, yellow enhancement). An infrared image animation showing only the clouds is available here. NOAA-18 flew over the Oregon coast at 1427 UTC, and the AVHRR 12 µm Infrared image showed the parent thunderstorm offshore, upstream of Manzanita (larger-scale view).

GOES-15 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) imagery, 1400-1800 UTC on 14 October [Click to animate]

The Portland, Oregon NWS office issued 10 tornado warnings on 14 October — a record number for a single day.

 

GOES Sounder data can be used to created Derived Product Imagery (DPI) estimates of instability parameters (for example), and many are shown at this site. The GOES-13 Sounder has been offline for about a year after having suffered an anomaly back in November 2015, when the filter wheel became frozen, but the GOES-15 Sounder (and the GOES-14 Sounder) continue to operate. The animation below of GOES-15 Sounder Lifted Index shows values as low as -4ºC upstream of the Oregon Coast for many hours before the tornado; as such, it was a valuable situational awareness tool.

goes_sounder_dpi_14oct2016_1100_1700step

GOES-15 Sounder DPI Estimates of Lifted Index, 1100-1700 UTC on 14 October 2016 (Click to enlarge)

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere is a probabilistic estimate that a given thunderstorm will produce severe weather in the next 60 minutes. The animation below shows ProbSevere polygons overlain over radar from 1501 UTC (when the first ProbSevere polygon appeared around the radar cell that ultimately was tornadic) through 1521 UTC. Values from the ProbSevere output are below:

 

TIME PS CAPE SHR MESH GRW GLA FLSHRATE COMMENTS
1501 11% 1048 39.3 0.00 str str 0 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1503 32% 1056 39.7 0.37 str str 0 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1505 32% 1031 39.4 0.37 str str 0 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1507 29% 1013 38.7 0.37 str str 3 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1509 47% 974 37.9 0.62 str str 3 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1511 47% 962 37.6 0.62 str str 3 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1513 32% 745 33.1 0.52 str str 10 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1515 34% 897 35.9 0.52 str str 1 fl/min Satellite from 1245/1241
1517 10% 887 35.7 0.52 N/A N/A 2 fl/min
1519 8% 762 33.6 0.54 N/A N/A 4 fl/min
1521 7% 737 33.1 0.49 N/A N/A 2 fl/min
realearthprobsevere_14october2016_1501_1521anim

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere output in RealEarth, 1501-1521 UTC on 14 October 2016 (Click to animate)

The Sounder also has a 9.6 µm “ozone absorption band”, and another example of GOES Sounder DPI is Total Column Ozone, shown below. Immediately evident is the sharp gradient in ozone (yellow to green color enhancement) located just north of the polar jet axis that was rounding the base of a large upper-level low (500 hPa analyses). The GOES-R ABI instrument also has a 9.6 µm band that is sensitive to ozone; however, there are no current plans to produce operationally a similar Total Column Ozone product.

 

GOES-15 Sounder Total Column Ozone DPI [click to animate]

GOES-15 Sounder Total Column Ozone DPI [click to animate]

Suomi NPP Day/Night Band Visible (0.70 µm) Image, 1057 UTC on 14 October 2016, Green Arrow points to Manzanita OR [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP Day/Night Band Visible (0.70 µm) Image, 1057 UTC on 14 October 2016, Green Arrow points to Manzanita OR [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP overflew the Pacific Northwest about 4 hours before the severe weather was observed at Manzanita. The Day/Night Visible Image above, courtesy of Jorel Torres at CIRA (Jorel also supplied the NUCAPS Sounding Imagery below), shows a well-developed storm offshore with thunderstorms off the West Coast of the United States (Click here for an image without the Green Arrow). Multiple overshooting tops can be discerned in the imagery.

NUCAPS Soundings are produced from the Cross-Track Infrared Sounder (CrIS, with 1300+ channels of information) and the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS, with 22 channels) that are present on Suomi NPP (in addition to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument that provides the Day/Night band imagery). The image below shows the location of NUCAPS Soundings — the color coding of the points is such that Green points have passed Quality Control, whereas yellow points denote sounding for which the Infrared Sounding retrieval has failed to converge and Red points denote soundings for which both Infrared and Microwave sounding retrievals have failed to converge).

Suomi NPP Day/Night Band Visible Image, 1057 UTC on 14 October 2016, with NUCAPS Sounding Locations indicated.  The Green Circle shows the location of the Sounding below [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP Day/Night Band Visible Image, 1057 UTC on 14 October 2016, with NUCAPS Sounding Locations indicated. The Green Circle shows the location of the Sounding below; Refer to the text for the Dot Color meaning [click to enlarge]

NUCAPS Soundings can give valuable information at times other than those associated with radiosonde launches (0000 and 1200 UTC, typically), and over a broad region. The point highlighted above, between the occluded storm and the coast, shows very steep mid-level lapse rates that suggest convective development is likely.

NUCAPS Sounding, location as shown by the Green Circle in the figure above. [click to enlarge]

NUCAPS Sounding, location as shown by the Green Circle in the figure above [click to enlarge]

The imagery below shows soundings a bit farther south, near convection that looks supercellular. The NUCAPS Soundings there suggest very steep mid-level lapse rates.

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First full day of Summer: snow in the Brooks Range of Alaska

June 22nd, 2016

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

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

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) showed the southeastward migration of an upper-level low across the North Slope and the eastern Brooks Range of Alaska during the 21 June – 22 June 2016 period. A potential vorticity (PV) anomaly was associated with this disturbance, which brought the dynamic tropopause — taken to be the pressure of the PV 1.5 surface — downward to below the 600 hPa pressure level over northern Alaska. Several inches of snow were forecast to fall in higher elevations of the eastern portion of the Brooks Range.

With the very large satellite viewing angle (or “zenith angle”) associated with GOES-15 imagery over Alaska  — which turns out to be 73.8 degrees for Fairbanks — the altitude of the peak of the Imager 6.5 µm water vapor weighting function (below) was shifted to higher altitudes (in this case, calculated using rawinsonde data from 12 UTC on 22 June, near the 300 hPa pressure level).

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

The ABI instrument on GOES-R will have 3 water vapor bands, roughly comparable to the 3 water vapor bands on the GOES-15 Sounder — the weighting functions for those 3 GOES-15 Sounder water vapor bands (calculated using the same Fairbanks rawinsonde data) are shown below. Assuming a similar spatial resolution as the Imager, the GOES-15 Sounder bands 11 (7.0 µm, green) and 12 (7.4 µm, red) would have allowed better sampling and visualization of the lower-altitude portion of this particular storm system. The 3 ABI water vapor bands are nearly identical to those on the Himawari-8 AHI instrument; an example of AHI water vapor imagery over part of Alaska can be seen here.

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

As the system departed and the clouds began to dissipate on 22 June, GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) did indeed show evidence of bright white snow-covered terrain on the northern slopes and highest elevations of the Brooks Range.

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

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

A sequence of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images (below) showed a view of the storm during the 21-22 June period, along with the resultant snow cover on 22 June. However, the snow quickly began to melt as the surface air temperature rebounded into the 50’s and 60’s F at some locations.

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

The increase in fresh snow cover along the northern slopes and the highest elevations of the central and northeastern Brooks Range — most notably from Anaktuvuk Pass to Fort Yukon to Sagwon — was evident in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from 17 June and 22 June, as viewed using RealEarth (below). The actual time of the satellite overpass on 22 June was 2134 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

GOES-14 SRSO-R: convective outflow boundary in southern Texas

April 20th, 2016

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

1-minute interval SRSO-R GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images (above; also available as a large 259 Mbyte animated GIF) showed a curved outflow boundary — produced by a strong quasi-linear convective system the preceding overnight hours in northern Texas — which continued to propagate southward across southern Texas during the day on 20 April 2016. New clusters of convection formed along and in the wake of the eastern portion of the outflow boundary (which dropped an additional 0.67 inch of rainfall in one hour across the flood-ravaged Houston area), while the western portion was marked by a low-level arc cloud.

On the corresponding GOES-14 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (below; also available as a large 126 Mbyte animated GIF), a very subtle signature of the western  part of the outflow boundary could be seen in the dryer atmosphere (where the water vapor weighting functions were shifted to lower altitudes). Also of interest were a few long and narrow contrails which appeared within that same dry region of the atmosphere after about 1800 UTC — these thin contrails were not evident in the GOES-14 visible or infrared imagery.

GOES-14 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

A comparison of the 3 Water Vapor bands (6.5 µm, 7.0 µm and 7.4 µm) available from the GOES-14 sounder instrument (below) demonstrated how each of the individual bands was detecting radiation emitted from a different layer of the troposphere; this was further shown by examining plots of the water vapor weighting functions for the 1 imager and the 3 sounder water vapor bands (calculated using 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Del Rio, Texas KDRT). The ABI instrument on GOES-R will have 3 water vapor bands similar to those on the current generation sounder instrument, but with significantly improved spatial and temporal resolution.

GOES-14 sounder Water Vapor bands 6.5 µm (top), 7.0 µm (middle) and 7.4 µm (bottom) images [click to play animation]

GOES-14 sounder Water Vapor bands 6.5 µm (top), 7.0 µm (middle) and 7.4 µm (bottom) images [click to play animation]

GOES-14 SRSO-R: heavy snow in the Upper Midwest, severe thunderstorms in the Deep South

February 2nd, 2016

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

A strong occluded mid-latitude cyclone moved from the central Plains northeastward across the Upper Midwest on 02 February 2016 (surface analyses). This storm produced a variety of precipitation, most notably heavy snow — exceeding 12 inches at some locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (map) — and blizzard conditions. One-minute interval Super Rapid Scan (SRSO-R) GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images (above; also available as a large 151-Mbyte animated GIF) showed the cloud-top shadows and textured appearance that is indicative of embedded convection — in fact, many sites in Iowa and southern Wisconsin reported thundersnow which produced snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour.

Farther to the south, as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was drawn northward (GOES-14 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product images) in advance of the eastward-moving cold frontal boundary (surface analyses) associated with the aforementioned Upper Midwest storm, areas of strong to severe thunderstorms developed across the Mississippi River and Tennessee River Valley regions during the afternoon and evening hours. GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images (below; also available as a large 208-Mbyte animated GIF) showed the cold cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (orange to red color enhancement) exhibited by the widespread convective activity.

GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

Taking a closer look at the severe thunderstorms which produced multiple tornadoes from eastern Mississippi  into far western Alabama (SPC storm reports), GOES-14 Visible (0.63 µm) images (above; also available as a large 66-Mbyte animated GIF) revealed numerous overshooting tops; the counties where tornadoes were reported are indicated by their dashed red outlines. Another visible image animation from RAMMB/CIRA is available here. NWS storm damage surveys (Jackson MS | Birmingham AL) found EF-1 to EF-2 damage in both Mississippi and Alabama.

The corresponding GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images (below; also available as a large 37-Mbyte animated GIF) indicated that the coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were in the -50º to -60º range (darker orange to red color enhancement), which was at or above the tropopause level according the Jackson MS and Birmingham AL rawinsonde data.

GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-14 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]