Severe thunderstorms in the Midwest

April 9th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images, with Cloud-Top Cooling Rate, Overshooting Tops Detection, and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images, with Cloud-Top Cooling Rate, Overshooting Tops Detection, and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

A deepening area of low pressure (21 UTC surface analysis) was moving northeastward across the Midwest region of the US on 09 April 2015; GOES-13 0.63 µm visible images combined with the Cloud-Top Cooling Rate and Overshooting Tops Detection products (above; click image to play animation) showed a line of severe thunderstorms which quickly developed along the associated cold frontal boundary as it moved eastward across Iowa and Missouri during the afternoon hours. Cloud-Top Cooling Rates with some of the storms in Missouri were in excess of 50º C per 15 minutes (violet color enhancement) during their early stage of development (18:25 UTC image).

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 18:51 UTC or 1:51 PM local time (below) showed that the line of thunderstorms was beginning to produce a number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image and 0.64 µm visible channel image with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel image and 0.64 µm visible channel image with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Focusing our attention on eastern Iowa and northern Illinois — where there were widespread reports of large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes (SPC storm reports) — the organization of large, discrete supercell thunderstorms can be seen on GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation), which exhibited numerous overshooting tops.

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

The corresponding GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed that the coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were -67º C (darker black enhancement).

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images, with Overshooting Top Detection and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images, with Overshooting Top Detection and SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

The NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product (below; click image to play animation) gauges the likelihood of a storm first producing severe weather (of any kind) within the next 60 minutes. It combines information about the environment (Most Unstable CAPE, Environmental Shear) from the Rapid Refresh Model, information about the growing cloud (Vertical Growth Rate as a percentage of the troposphere per minute and Glaciation Rate, also as a percentage per minute), and Maximum Expected Hail Size (MESH) from the MRMS. In this event, the ProbSevere product performed well for the storm that spawned the EF-4 tornado, although due to the cloudiness of the satellite scene the ProbSevere model was unable to diagnose vertical growth rate and glaciation rate (which diminished the potential lead-time). Below is a chronological timeline of events for that storm:

2308 UTC: first ProbSevere > 50%
2310 UTC: first ProbSevere > 70%
2311 UTC: NWS Severe T-Storm Warning
2312 UTC: ProbSevere = 88%
2323 UTC: 1.00″ hail 2 SE Dixson (15 min lead-time for ProbSevere@50, 13 min for ProbSevere@70, 12 min for NWS Svr Warning)
2335 UTC: NWS Tornado Warning (ProbSevere = 94%)
2340 UTC: Tornado report 2 NE Franklin Grove

Radar reflectivity with NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model contours and NWS warning polygons (click to play animation)

Radar reflectivity with NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere model contours and NWS warning polygons (click to play animation)

In spite of widespread cloudiness, the GOES-13 Sounder single-field-of-view Lifted Index (LI), Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), and Total Precipitable Water (TPW) derived product images (below) were able to portray that the air mass in the warm sector of the low ahead of the strong cold front was was both unstable — LI values of -4 to -8º C (yellow to red color enhancement) and CAPE values of 3000-4000 J/kg (yellow to red color enhancement) — and rich in moisture, with TPW values of 30-40 mm or 1.2 to 1.6 inches (yellow to red color enhancement).

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted Index derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted Index derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Lifted CAPE derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder CAPE derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Total Precipatable Water (TPW) derived product images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Sounder Total Precipatable Water (TPW) derived product images (click to play animation)

On the following day (10 April), it was cloud-free as the Landsat-8 satellite passed over northern Illinois at 16:41 UTC or 11:41 AM local time — and the 30.2 mile long southwest-to-northeast oriented tornado damage path that produced EF-4 damage and was responsible for 2 fatalities and 22 injuries (NWS Chicago event summary) was evident on 15-meter resolution Band 8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible images viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below). An aerial survey of part of the tornado damage path can be seen here.

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of southwestern portion of tornado damage track (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of southwestern portion of tornado damage track (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of northeastern portion of tornado damage path (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panchromatic visible image of northeastern portion of tornado damage path (click to enlarge)

A Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as Red/Green/Blue) is shown below. The 2 tornado-related fatalities occurred in Fairdale.

Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as R/G/B)

Landsat-8 false-color image (using Bands 6/5/4 as R/G/B)

On a side note, in the cold (northwestern) sector of the low it was cold enough for the precipitation type to be snow — and up to 4 inches of snow fell in western Iowa. GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) showed the swath of snow cover as it rapidly melted during the daytime hours on 10 April.

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

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

In fact, the swath of snow cover across eastern Nebraska and western/northern Iowa was also evident on a Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (DNB) image at 08:49 UTC or 3:39 AM local time (below), highlighting the “visible image at night” capability of the DNB (given ample illumination from the Moon).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Fatal severe weather outbreak in Oklahoma

March 25th, 2015
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

Severe thunderstorms developed in the vicinity of a quasi-stationary frontal boundary which stretched from northeastern Oklahoma into northern Arkansas and southern Missouri late in the day on 25 March 2015. A plot of the SPC storm reports shows that these storms produced widespread large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes —  including the first tornado-related fatality of 2015 at a trailer home park near Sand Springs, Oklahoma (just west/southwest of Tulsa). Storm reports also included hail as large as 4.25 inches in diameter, and wind gusts as high as 80 mph. 1-km resolution GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the development of numerous thunderstorms across the region, some of which grew to be very large discrete supercells late in the afternoon and toward sunset. The tell-tale signature of cloud-top shadows from small-scale “overshooting tops” could be seen with many of these storms, indicating the presence of vigorous updrafts which penetrated the thunderstorm top (and likely the tropopause). Also note the presence of parallel bands of stable wave clouds over parts of northeastern Kansas and northwestern Arkansas: these clouds highlighted areas where boundary layer warm air advection was over-running shallow pockets of cool, stable air north frontal boundary.

The corresponding 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) revealed very cold cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (as cold as -71º C, dark black color enhancement), along with the formation of a well-defined Enhanced-V/Thermal Couplet (EV/TC) signature with the storm that produced large hail, damaging winds, and the fatal tornado southwest of Tulsa (station identifier KTUL). The EV/TC signature was first evident on the 22:00 UTC IR image, with cold/warm thermal couplet values of -65º/-53º C; the maximum thermal couplet spread was at 22:25 UTC, with -71º/-52º C, after which time the minimum IR brightness temperatures of the overshooting tops then began a warming trend: -67º C at 22:30 UTC, and -64º C at 22:37 UTC (suggesting a collapse of the vigorous updraft and overshooting top). Note that the storm-top EV/TC signature was displaced to the northwest of the surface hail/wind/tornado storm reports just west of Tulsa, due to parallax resulting from the large satellite viewing angle of GOES-East (which is positioned over the Equator at 75º W longitude). In addition, see the bottom of this blog post for examples of the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product applied to these storms.

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

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

Automated overshooting top (OT) detection icons (small yellow thunderstorm symbols) are also plotted on the GOES-13 IR images. The initial OT detections began at 20:15 UTC, over the general area where there was later a report of 1.0-inch diameter hail at 20:40 UTC. A comparison of the 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image at 20:15 UTC with a 375-meter (projected onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image at 20:16 UTC (below) demonstrates (1) the advantage of improved spatial resolution for detecting the minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of thunderstorm overshooting tops (-60º C with GOES, vs -75º C with VIIRS), and (2) minimal parallax effect with polar-orbiting satellite imagery such as that from Suomi NPP, for more accurate geolocation of such potentially important storm features.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR and Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR and Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

A comparison of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel and 12.0 µm IR channel images (below) provided a detailed view of the storms at 22:54 UTC, which were electrically very active at that time (producing over 1900 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in a 15-minute period). The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -77º C, located just southwest of Tulsa — this was likely the overshooting top associated with the supercell thunderstorm that produced the fatal tornado.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel and 0.86 µm visible channel images, with METAR surface reports, lightning, and SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel and 0.86 µm visible channel images, with METAR surface reports, lightning, and SPC storm reports

10-km resolution GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (below; click image to play animation) showed the rapid trend in destabilization of the air mass along and south of the frontal boundary, with CAPE values eventually exceeding 4300 J/kg (purple color enhancement).

GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (click to play animaton)

GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (click to play animaton)

10-km resolution GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water (TPW) derived product images (below; click image to play animation) indicated that TPW values of 30 mm or 1.18 inch and greater (yellow enhancement) were present along and south the frontal boundary in northeastern Oklahoma.

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product imagery (click to play animation)

At 19:19 UTC, the 4-km resolution MODIS Total Precipitable Water derived product image (below) showed a plume of moisture with TPW values as high as 41.7 mm or 1.64 inches (red enhancement) moving toward the Tulsa area.

MODIS 0.65 um visible channel and Total Precipitable Water derived product images

MODIS 0.65 um visible channel and Total Precipitable Water derived product images

Additional information about this event can be found at the NWS Tulsa and United States Tornadoes sites.

Convection Returns to the central Great Plains

March 24th, 2015
Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm infrared channel images (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm infrared channel images (click to enlarge)

The ongoing change in seasons was accompanied last night by a round of convection over the Missouri River Valley. Suomi NPP 11.45 µm imagery from overnight shows scattered convection over Kansas, Missouri and Iowa at 0728 and 0909 UTC. Coldest cloud tops are around -65 C. The Day-Night band showed lightning streaks at both times as well, over east-central Kansas at 0728 and north-central Kansas 0909 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.70 µm Day-Night band visible channel images (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.70 µm Day-Night band visible channel images (click to enlarge)

GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

The GOES Sounder showed the unstable air that was feeding into this convection. Imagery at three-hourly intervals, above, shows values between 0 and -4 persisting over the central Plains. Plots of 850-mb data on top of the GOES Sounder DPI Lifted index, below, shows the development of strong warm advection over the central Plains that helped feed moisture into the developing convection.

GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index and Radiosonde data at 850 hPa, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index and Radiosonde data at 850 hPa (click to enlarge)

NUCAPS soundings, created from both CrIS and ATMS data on board Suomi NPP, below, showed steepening mid-level lapse rates over/near Kansas. This convection likely was not surface-based.

Suomi/NPP NUCAPS Soundings near Kansas City (07z) and over Eastern Kansas (09z) with an individual sounding from the starred point plotted (click to enlarge)

Suomi/NPP NUCAPS Soundings near Kansas City (07z) and over Eastern Kansas (09z) with an individual sounding from the starred point plotted (click to enlarge)

Strong arctic cold front: grass fires, blowing dust, and a lee-side frontal gravity wave

March 17th, 2015
GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images (click to play animation)

After a day of record high temperatures in parts of Nebraska — the 91º F at North Platte set a new record high for the month of March, and was also the earliest temperature of 90º F or above on record at that site — a strong arctic cold front plunged southward across the state late in the day on 16 March 2015. With strong winds (gusting to 40-50 knots at some locations) in the wake of the frontal passage and dry vegetation fuels in place, GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (above; click image to play animation) showed the “hot spot” signatures (black to yellow to red pixels) associated with a number of large grass fires that began to burn across the state.

The strong northwesterly winds behind the cold front also lofted dry soil into the boundary layer, creating blowing dust whose hazy signature was evident on GOES-13 0.63 visible channel images (below; click image to play animation). Visibility was reduced to 7 miles at some locations.

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

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

After sunset and into the pre-dawn hours on 17 March, a lee-side frontal gravity wave signature could be seen on GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation). This warmer/drier (darker blue color enhancement) arc on the water vapor imagery followed the position of the surface cold front, which meant that the upward-propagating frontal gravity wave reached altitudes where the water vapor channel was sensing radiation.

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

As the frontal gravity wave was approaching the Kansas/Oklahoma border region around 05 UTC, a pilot reported light to moderate turbulence at altitude of 6000 feet (below).

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel image with pilot report of turbulence

GOES-13 6.5 µm water vapor channel image with pilot report of turbulence

A 4-panel comparison of the three Sounder water vapor channels (6.5 µm, 7.0 µm, and 7.4 µm) and the standard Imager 6.5 µm water vapor channel (below; click image to play animation) showed that the southward propagation of the frontal gravity wave signature was most evident on the Sounder 7.0 µm and Imager 6.5 µm images, although there was also a more subtle indication on the Sounder 7.4 µm images. The new generation of geostationary satellite Imager instruments (for example, the AHI on Himawari-8 and the ABI on GOES-R) feature 3 water vapor channels which are similar to those on the current GOES Sounder, but at much higher spatial and temporal resolutions

GOES-13 Sounder 6.5 µm (upper left), 7.0 µm (upper right), 7.4 µm (lower left), and Imager 6.5 µm (lower right) - click to play animation

GOES-13 Sounder 6.5 µm (upper left), 7.0 µm (upper right), 7.4 µm (lower left), and Imager 6.5 µm (lower right) – click to play animation

————————————————————————-

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting functions for North Platte, Nebraska

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting functions for North Platte, Nebraska

The depth and altitude of the layer from which a particular water vapor channel is detecting radiation is shown by plotting its weighting function — for example, at North Platte, Nebraska (above), the Imager 6.5 µm plot (black) and the 7.0 µm plot (green) exhibited lower-altitude secondary peaks around the 500 hPa level — while farther to the south at Dodge City, Kansas (below) these 2 water vapor channel plots had their peaks located slightly higher in the atmosphere. Even though the bulk of the radiation was being detected from higher altitudes (due to the presence of moisture and cirrus clouds aloft over much of the southern Plains region), the sharp signal of the lower-altitude cold frontal gravity wave was strong enough to be seen in the deep layer average moisture brightness temperature depicted in the water vapor images.

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting functions

GOES-13 Sounder and Imager water vapor channel weighting functions