40 years of Satellite Imagery

June 27th, 2014 |
Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS-1) 11 µm infrared channel image, 2130 UTC 27 June 1974 (click to enlarge)

Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS-1) 11 µm infrared channel image, 2130 UTC 27 June 1974 (click to enlarge)

The oldest satellite image in the SSEC data archive is shown above, taken 40 years ago on 27 June 1974, from SMS-1 (the corresponding visible image can be seen here). The infrared channel sensed radiation in a broad spectrum between 10.5 and 12.6 µm (source). The SMS-1 satellite (launched on 17 May 1974) was positioned over the Equator over eastern South America, at about 45 degrees West Longitude.

More information on the SSEC Datacenter archive is here.

The Memphis Derecho of July 22 2003

July 31st, 2013 |
GOES-12 10.7 µm IR imagery (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR imagery (Click Image to play animation)

On the morning of July 22, 2003, a strong derecho moved through metropolitan Memphis, TN, with winds exceeding hurricane-force. The most significant impact of this storm was a loss of power caused in part by the many trees that were downed by the winds. The Storm Report for the day from the Storm Prediction Center shows a cluster of wind reports in and around Memphis and Shelby County. The National Weather Service office in Memphis produced a report on this event that includes radar imagery and a discussion of surface and upper-air observations. More information on this derecho is here. What do satellite data show for this event?

The animation of 10.7 µm imagery, above, shows the development of convection in southeast Kansas and northwest Arkansas that then moves eastward into the mid-South, hitting Memphis around 1200 UTC. Several overshooting tops are evident as the storms pass near Memphis, with the coldest brightness temperatures at 196K! Past derechosdiscussed on this blog (such as the one that hit the East Coast in 2012) were characterized by a channel of moisture and instability aligned with the storm motion, allowing the propagating thunderstorm complex access to a rich source of moisture and instability. This event in 2003 was no different. GOES-12 Sounder retrievals — during that year, 3×3 fields-of-view were used (versus single pixels now) — of Total Precipitable Water, Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) and Lifted Index (LI), show abundant moisture and instability aligned west-to-east across northern Arkansas. CAPE values exceeded 3000 J/kg, Total Precipitable Water was greater than 2 inches, and Lifted Indices were near -10.

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Total Precipitable Water (3x3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Total Precipitable Water (3×3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) (3x3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) (3×3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Lifted Index (3x3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10/GOES-12 Sounder-Derived Lifted Index (3×3 Field of View) (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-12 Visible Imagery (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-12 Visible Imagery (Click Image to play animation)

Visible imagery, above, from GOES-12 shows the convection continuing to develop as it moves across the Mississippi River into Memphis. Several Overshooting tops are evident, as well as parallel cloud lines at the cirrus level that are usually associated with turbulence. GOES-10, as GOES-West, was also able to capture the convection as it moved through Memphis (below).

GOES-10 Visible Imagery (Click Image to play animation)

GOES-10 Visible Imagery (Click Image to play animation)

53rd anniversary of the first image from a meteorological satellite

April 1st, 2013 |

 

TIROS-1 visible image

TIROS-1 visible image

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the first image from the meteorological satellite TIROS-1, which was available on 01 April 1960 (above). While TIROS-1 was only operational for 78 days, it provided a number of images of the Earth and cloud systems (including the first image of a tropical cyclone, over the South Pacific Ocean on 10 April 1960).

One example that demonstrates how satellite imagery has improved over the past 53 years is a night-time comparison of AWIPS images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel  data (below), covering the same general region as shown on the first TIROS-1 image (Maine, and the Canadian Maritime provinces). With ample illumination from the moon (Waning Gibbous phase, 67% of full), the Day/Night Band offered a “visible image at night” which showed such features as the extent of sea ice in the channels between Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, as well as a series of banded wave clouds associated with an undular bore off the southern coast of Nova Scotia. Subtle details regarding the location and cloud-top IR brightness temperature of overshooting tops could also be seen in the convective clouds off the coast of Maine.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

UPDATE: Hat-tip to AccuWeather’s Jesse Ferrell, who found this information which indicates that the TIROS-1 image shown above was actually taken on 02 April 1960! The actual first image from TIROS-1 (taken on 01 April 1960) is shown below (courtesy of Rick Kohrs, SSEC).

The actual first TIROS-1 image (taken on 01 April 1960)

The actual first TIROS-1 image (taken on 01 April 1960)

20-year anniversary of the March 1993 “Storm of the Century”

March 13th, 2013 |
Meteosat-3 11.5 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

Meteosat-3 11.5 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

The 1214 March 1993 “Storm of the Century” (aka “the ’93 Superstorm” or “the Great Blizzard of 1993”) was one of the most significant storms to impact the eastern United States (NWS Wilmington NC summary). McIDAS images of EUMETSAT Meteosat-3 Infrared (11.5 µm) channel images (above) showed the storm as it initially began to experience rapid intensification in the Gulf of Mexico on 12 March. At the time, Meteosat-3 was on loan to the US and serving as the “GOES-East” satellite after the failure of GOES-6 in 1989.

On the following day (13 March), a larger-scale view of Meteosat-3 Infrared (11.5 µm) images (below) revealed the very large size of the storm as it moved along the Eastern Seaboard of the US. Some highlights of the storm included snowfall amounts as high as 56 inches at Mount LeConte in Tennessee, a wind gust to 144 mph at Mount Washington in New Hampshire, a minimum sea level pressure of 28.28 inches at White Plains in New York, and a post-storm record low temperature of -12º F in Burlington, Vermont.

Meteosat-3 11.5 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

Meteosat-3 11.5 µm IR channel images (click image to play animation)

The corresponding large-scale view of Meteosat-3 Water Vapor (6.4 µm) images (below) showed the well-defined dry slot and large comma head associated with the storm.

Meteosat-3 6.4 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

Meteosat-3 6.4 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

A GOES-7 Visible (0.65 µm) image at 18:01 UTC or 1:01 PM Eastern Time on 13 March (below) showed several interesting aspects of the storm, including widespread stratucumulus cloud streets over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean (due to cold air advection over warmer waters), and also a large cloud arc in the Pacific Ocean south of Mexico, which was the leading edge of a Tehuano mountain gap wind event (see Schultz, et al, 1997). A rope cloud marked the leading edge of the strong cold front, which at the time of the image had plunged as far southward as Honduras in Central America.

GOES-7 0.65 µm visible channel image

GOES-7 0.65 µm visible channel image (click to enlarge)