Severe thunderstorm strikes Virginia campground

July 24th, 2014
GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

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

A supercell thunderstorm intensified as it moved eastward across the Chesapeake Bay (just ahead of an approaching surface cold front) on the morning of 24 July 2014 — as it reached the Virginia shore of the Delmarva Peninsula, it produced an EF-1 tornado and damaging straight line winds that were responsible for 2 fatalities and 36 injuries at the Cherrystone Family Camping Resort (located at the * symbol on the images). The storm also produced golf ball to baseball size hail (NWS damage survey | SPC storm reports). McIDAS images of GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel data (above; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) showed that the cloud-top IR brightness temperatures associated with the storm cooled quickly, from -45º C at 11:15 UTC to -64º C at 12:30 UTC. The temperature value was close to that of the tropopause (at a height of 15.4 km) on the 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Wallops Island, Virginia.

The corresponding GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed the presence of an overshooting top at 12:30 UTC  (the time that the IR cloud-top brightness temperature values reached their minimum), which was also flagged by the automated Overshooting Tops detection algorithm.

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

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

AWIPS-II images of the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product (below) followed the radar feature associated with the supercell thunderstorm. Around 11:30 UTC, the ProbSevere value was low, around 5-10%, a result of weak satellite-detected growth (and moderate glaciation) early in the storm’s life, along with low values of MRMS Maximum Expected Size of Hail (MESH). Environmental parameters from the Rapid Refresh model that were supportive of convection: MUCAPE exceeded 2200 J Kg and Shear values were greater than 30 m/s. As the cell tracked to the east and began to move over Chesapeake Bay, both MUCAPE and Shear gradually increased, to values near 2400 J/kg and 35 m/s, respectively. MRMS MESH was oscillating as the cell approached Chesapeake Bay, from 0.44 inches at 11:42 UTC (ProbSevere value of 10%) to 0.37 inches at 11:46 UTC (ProbSevere of 7%) to 0.65 inches at 11:48 UTC (ProbSevere of 29%) to 0.56 inches at 12:00 UTC (ProbSevere of 18%). As the storm moved over the Bay, MESH sizes jumped, to 0.86″ at 12:04 UTC (ProbSevere of 58%, the first crossing of the 50% threshold), to 1.02″ at 12:06 UTC (ProbSevere of 71%), to 1.86″ at 12:12 UTC (ProbSevere of 92% , the first crossing of the 90% threshold), and to 3.09″ (!) at 12:16 UTC (ProbSevere of 91%). At 12:20 UTC, when the Tornado Warning was issued, MRMS MESH was 3.51″ and ProbSevere remained at 91%. Thus, the warning was issued 16 minutes after ProbSevere exceeded 50%, and 8 minutes after ProbSevere was greater than 90%. The NWS storm survey indicated that the campsite fatalities occurred around 12:33 UTC, or 13 minutes after the issuance of the tornado warning.

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product

The rapid intensification of the system as it moved over the Chesapeake begs the question: was instability diagnosed? In the animation below, GOES-13 sounder Derived Product Images (DPI) of Lifted Index (top panel) and CAPE (bottom panel) showed a rich source of instability just south of the cloud-obscuring convection (and ahead of the southward-moving cold front). Lifted Index values derived at 1147 UTC were around -6 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay (bright yellow enhancement); CAPE values were around 2500 J/kg (yellow and red enhancements).

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Estimates of Lifted Index (top) and CAPE (bottom) [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Estimates of Lifted Index (top) and CAPE (bottom) [click to play animation]

Strong convective winds over Arkansas

July 23rd, 2014
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

Arkansas and surrounding states experiences strong convectively-forced winds on July 23 2014 (SPC Storm Reports for the day are shown below). The visible imagery, above, shows the merging of two convective systems: one is moving south-southeastward through eastern Kansas and one is building southwestward from the lower Ohio River Valley into northern Arkansas. (Mesoscale Discussions for this event were issued from SPC at 1656 UTC, 1827 UTC and 2001 UTC on the 23rd).

Storm Reports from 23 July 2014

Storm Reports from 23 July 2014

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Lifted Index (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Lifted Index (click to play animation)

Analyses from the GOES-13 Sounder (above) showed the atmosphere into which the convective features were building to be very unstable. A large area with Lifted Indices around -10 (light red) is present; values exceed -12 (purple) at 1800 UTC. GOES Sounder DPI Analyses of CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy, below) (from this site) likewise show strong instability at the start of the day. Convection is initially at both ends of the area of most unstable air; by 1900 UTC, the end of the animation, it has overspread the entire region of instability.

GOES Sounder CAPE (click to play animation)

GOES Sounder CAPE (click to play animation)

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

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

The GOES-13 Infrared Imagery, above, likewise shows the convective systems from Kansas and from the lower Ohio Valley merging over Arkansas.

Suomi-NPP VIIRS data were available over Arkansas on two successive passes on 23 July, at 1829 UTC and 2010 UTC, and these high-resolution infrared images show the quick development and vigor of the convection. The high resolution allowed for the detection of very cold cloud tops at 2010 UTC; minimum values were near -88ºC! Coldest GOES-13 10.7 Brightness Temperatures at 2015 UTC (not shown) were -78ºC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.35 µm infrared channel images (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.35 µm infrared channel images (click to enlarge)

The storms produced considerable lightning as well, as shown in the animation below that overlays hourly lightning strikes on top of the Suomi NPP 11.35 µm imagery: there were 5800 strikes (400 positive) in the hour ending at 1800 UTC, and 12000 strikes (800 positive) in the hour ending at 2000 UTC!

Suomi NPP 11.35 µm infrared channel imagery and Detected Lightning (click to play animation)

Suomi NPP 11.35 µm infrared channel imagery and Detected Lightning (click to play animation)

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere showed values from 80-95% at the leading edge of the convection as it moved southward through Arkansas. In this event, satellite data were not available as one of the ProbSevere predictors because of the widespread cirrus shield. MRMS Mesh was generally in the 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ range; that combines with model CAPE values exceeding 4000 and generous shear lead to the high ProbSevere values.

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere display including MRMS Base Reflectivity, 1922-2128 UTC 23 July 2013 (click to play animation)

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere display including MRMS Base Reflectivity, 1922-2128 UTC 23 July 2013 (click to play animation)

Overshooting Tops, such as those apparent in the 11.35 µm imagery from Suomi NPP, above, can be detected automatically in GOES-13 10.7 µm imagery. The animation of auto-detected overshooting tops, below, from this site, shows a peak in convective intensity (as measured by the number of overshoots) between 2000 and 2100 UTC on the 23rd. This image shows the daily sum of detected overshoots. There is good spatial correlation between that image and the storm reports.

Overshooting Tops Detected from GOES-13, 1545-2300 UTC 23 July 2013 (click to play animation)

Overshooting Tops Detected from GOES-13, 1545-2300 UTC 23 July 2013 (click to play animation)

Finally, CRiS/ATMS data can be used to generate soundings (NUCAPS Soundings) that are available in AWIPS II. The image below shows the spatial coverage of soundings at 2000 UTC on 23 July. The NUCAPS sounding from the easternmost column, third point south of the Oklahoma/Texas border, bottom, is shown at the bottom of the post. The boundary layer of this sounding is too cool and dry — the surface temperature is around 80º F and the surface dewpoint is in the mid-60s. Consequently, the MUCAPE is far too small (about 120 J per kilogram). If the sounding is edited so that surface values are closer to observations (it was 90º F with a 75º F dewpoint in Texarkana at this time) then MUCAPE values jump to near 5000. The sounding is also too dry; the precipitable water is 1.45″ vs. an actual value closer to 2″ at this time.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.35 µm Imagery at 2010 UTC, with NUCAPS Sounding Locations in Green (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.35 µm Imagery at 2010 UTC, with NUCAPS Sounding Locations in Green (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP NUCAPS Sounding at 32.7º N, 94.9º W (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP NUCAPS Sounding at 32.7º N, 94.9º W (Click to enlarge)

NUCAPS soundings near a Tropical Disturbance

July 1st, 2014
Suomi/NPP 11.35 µm infrared channel, 0717 UTC on 1 July 2014 and NUCAPS sounding locations in green (click to enlarge)

Suomi/NPP 11.35 µm infrared channel, 0717 UTC on 1 July 2014 and NUCAPS sounding locations in green (click to enlarge)

Suomi/NPP overflew the developing tropical depression #1 (now Tropical Storm Arthur) east of Florida early in the morning on July 1st. The CrIS and ATMS instruments on board S/NPP provide data for NUCAPS soundings that are routinely distributed to AWIPS II. The image above is an overlay of the 11.35 µm infrared imagery with the sounding locations plotted as green dots. Seven sounding locations are indicated on the image above (Here is the image without the seven sounding locations) How well do NUCAPS soundings represent the tropical atmosphere that is supporting the development of Arthur?

The 7 soundings indicated in the plot above are: 1 (Just south of Pensacola, FL), 2 (Off the coast of Georgia), 3 (northeast of Arthur in the tropical Atlantic), 4 (Cape Canaveral), 5 (north of Tampa Bay), 6 (the western tip of Cuba) and 7 (northeastern Cuba).

GOES Sounder DPI Total Precipitable Water at 0700 UTC on 1 July 2014 (click to enlarge)

GOES Sounder DPI Total Precipitable Water at 0700 UTC on 1 July 2014 (click to enlarge)

How does Precipitable Water from the NUCAPS soundings compare to observations from other satellite-based systems? GOES Sounder DPI TPW from 0800 UTC shows values around 50 mm over interior the southeast United States, and over the tropical Atlantic to the northeast of the tropical system. A corridor of lower values, around 30-35 mm, extends northeast of Jacksonville, FL. Smaller values (30-40 mm) also extend southeastward from the lower Mississippi River valley into the Gulf of Mexico. A similar pattern in the precipitable water is evident in the blended product, here. Precipitable water values from the NUCAPS soundings appear, for this case, to be too low. The value at Cape Canaveral (point 4), for example, is 1.59″ (40 mm, versus close to 50 mm from the Sounder and the Blended Product); off the coast of Georgia (point 2), 1.30″ (33 mm vs. close to 41 mm from the Sounder and Blended Product); south of Pensacola (point 1), 1.25″ (31 mm vs. 35 mm from the Sounder and the Blended Product); north of Tampa Bay (point 5), 1.46″ (37 mm vs 47 mm from the Sounder and the Blended Product); northeast of the tropical system (point 3), 1.84″ (47 mm vs 49 mm from the Sounder/Blended Product); western Cuba (point 6), 1.70″ (43 mm, similar to the 44 mm from the Sounder/Blended Product); and northeast cuba (point 7), 1.22″ (31 mm vs. 39 from the Sounder and 34 from the Blended Product). The lowest 3 kilometers of the atmosphere (where most of the moisture resides) is the most difficult part for a satellite-based sounding, but there do appear to be differences between the two satellite-based sounding products (GOES and NUCAPS) in this case.

Severe Weather in Nebraska

June 16th, 2014

Unusual twin tornadoes (click here for a summary of photos/videos from the Capitol Weather Gang) formed in northeastern Nebraska (Storm Reports from SPC) late in the afternoon of the 16th of June 2014. How did satellite data anticipate the development and progression of the severe convection? GOES-13 Sounder data painted a picture of ongoing destabilization in the area. For example, the CIMSS NearCast Product, which  arises from a two-layer Lagrangian Transport Model of Equivalent Potential Temperature, shows increasing stability in a forecast for 2100 UTC on 16 June in forecasts from 1800, 1900 and 2000 UTC, below.

CIMSS NearCast forecasts of Theta-e Differences between two layers, all at 2100 UTC, with initial times at 1800, 1900 and 2000 UTC (click to animate)

CIMSS NearCast forecasts of Theta-e Differences between two layers, all at 2100 UTC, with initial times at 1800, 1900 and 2000 UTC (click to animate)

The NearCast output, derived from GOES Sounder data, can predict in advance where axes of instability (and more importantly, where gradients in instability; see also comments on NearCast here and here) will occur. GOES Sounder data can also be used to diagnose the present state of the atmosphere. On this particular day, GOES Sounder estimates of Lifted Index (1400, 2000 and 0000 UTC) and CAPE (1400, 2000 and 0000 UTC) all showed ongoing destabilization over the Plains.

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Analyses of Lifted Index and Convective Available Potential Energy at 1400 and 2000 UTC on 16 June and at 0000 UTC on 17 June

GOES-13 Sounder DPI Analyses of Lifted Index and Convective Available Potential Energy at 1400 and 2000 UTC on 16 June and at 0000 UTC on 17 June

The products above outline the general area where convection might develop. Once the convection has developed, the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product can be used to diagnose/monitor the likelihood of severe weather (large hail, strong winds, or tornadoes) developing — specifically, the likelihood of when severe weather might first occur. The animation below shows the evolution of the tornadic cell as it moved northeastward through Nebraska. Satellite predictors (Normalized Vertical Growth Rate and Maximum Glaciation Rate) for this cell were strong; both were observed at 1925 UTC, nearly an hour before the observed severe weather. ProbSevere first exceeded 50% at 1950 UTC, 13 minutes before the warning at 2003 UTC. 1-inch diameter hail was reported at 2016 UTC. The first tornado report occurred at 2040 UTC.

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model

MUCAPE in the ProbSevere product above is around 4000-5000 J/kg. A special sounding at OAX (1900 UTC) shows similar CAPE values.

The Suomi NPP satellite had a timely overpass over the Great Plains at around 2000 UTC on 16 June 2014. NUCAPS Soundings from Suomi NPP are available, as plotted below, and can be used to estimate instability.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm imagery with NUCAPS sounding positions (Green Dots) Superimposed (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm imagery with NUCAPS sounding positions (Green Dots) Superimposed (Click to enlarge)

A sounding at ~42º N, ~97.8º W, below, shows CAPE values around 1000. However, note that the boundary layer temperature and dewpoint are too cool (surface temperature = 21º C) and too dry (surface dewpoint = 12º C). A benefit of the Sounding Software in AWIPS II, however, is that soundings can be easily modified. If the boundary layer is altered such that dewpoints are closer to observed METAR values (20º C), then CAPE values increase to 3000; if the temperatures are modified to be closer to observed values, CAPE increases to more than 4800.

NUCAPS Sounding at 42.07 N, 97.78 W, ~2000 UTC on 16 June 2014 (Click to enlarge)

NUCAPS Sounding at 42.07 N, 97.78 W, ~2000 UTC on 16 June 2014 (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS data at different wavelengths (0.64 µm visible, 1.61 µm near-IR and 11.45 µm longwave IR), below, give a view of the storm just before severe hail was observed. The 1.61 µm imagery suggests a fully-glaciated anvil, and the 11.45 µm imagery shows evidence of several isolated overshooting tops.

Suomi NPP VIIRS data (0.64 µm, 1.61 µm and 11.45 µm) at 2004 UTC on 16 June 2014 (Click to animate)

Suomi NPP VIIRS data (0.64 µm, 1.61 µm and 11.45 µm) at 2004 UTC on 16 June 2014 (Click to animate)

Click here for a visible image animation from GOES-13; here is an infrared image animation. The famous twin tornadoes in Elkhart, IN, during the Palm Sunday outbreak in 1965 can be seen here.