Flooding in the Missouri/Mississippi/Ohio River basins

January 2nd, 2016 |

Aqua MODIS false-color RGB images on 19 December 2015 and 02 January 2016 [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS false-color RGB images on 19 December 2015 and 02 January 2016 [click to enlarge]

A comparison of 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC MODIS Today site on 19 December 2015 and 02 January 2016 (above) showed large increases in the width of portions of the Missouri/Mississippi/Ohio Rivers (as well as many of their tributaries and surrounding lakes) during that 14-day period. These false-color images use MODIS bands 7/2/1 as the R/G/B components — water appears as varying shades of darker blue. Some light snow cover (shades of cyan) can also be seen in the upper left corner of the 02 January image.

A comparison of Aqua MODIS true-color (created using bands 1/4/3) and false-color (created using bands 7/2/1) RGB images on 02 January (below) demonstrated the advantage of the false-color imagery for detection of the extent of river and lake flooding. The high sediment content of the area lakes and rivers made them appear as varying shades of tan to brown on the true-color image, making their boundaries more difficult to distinguish from the similar shades of the surrounding bare ground surfaces. (Note: when GOES-R is launched in late 2016, similar spectral bands on the ABI instrument will allow the creation of these types of true-color and false-color RGB images)

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 02 January 2016 [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 02 January 2016 [click to enlarge]

A more detailed view of flooding across the eastern portion of the MODIS images (in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky) was provided by 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 false-color imagery, as visualized using RealEarth (below). A magnified view of the Evansville, Indiana / Owensboro, Kentucky area can be seen here.

Landsat-8 false-color image [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 false-color image [click to enlarge]

Maps of total observed precipitation and departure from normal (below) during the same 14-day period as the 2 MODIS false-color images shown at the top of the blog post revealed that widespread areas received upwards of 8-10 inches of rainfall, which was 6-8 inches above normal for that 2-week period of time.

19 December 2015 to 02 January 2016 total precipitation and departure from normal [click to enlarge]

19 December 2015 to 02 January 2016 total precipitation and departure from normal [click to enlarge]

As a result of water runoff from the heavy precipitation, new records for maximum river gauge height were set for the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Thebes, Illinois (below).

River gauge plot for the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Missouri [click to enlarge]

River gauge plot for the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Missouri [click to enlarge]

River gauge for the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois [click to enlarge]

River gauge for the Mississippi River at Thebes, Illinois [click to enlarge]

Additional information is available from the NWS Paducah.

Using RGB images for discrimination of clouds vs snow cover

December 16th, 2015 |

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and False-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and False-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

On the afternoon of 16 December 2015, a toggle between Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm, 375-m resolution) and False-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (above) showed areas of snow cover (shades of red on the RGB image) that remained from separate snowfall events during the 13 December15 December time period (24-hour snowfall maps). Snow depth on the morning of 16 December was as high as 14 inches in the Foothills of eastern Colorado, 12 inches in both southeastern Wyoming and western Nebraska, and 4 inches in southwestern Kansas.

Comparing the false-color RGB image with the visible image made it easier to unambiguously discriminate between snow cover and supercooled water droplet cloud features (which appear as shades of white on the RGB image). In addition, consecutive VIIRS RGB images (below) showed the areas where snow cover was beginning to melt during the ~102 minutes between overpasses of the Suomi NPP satellite.

Suomi NPP VIIRS False-color RGB images at 1842 and 2025 UTC [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS False-color RGB images at 1842 and 2025 UTC [click to enlarge]

A late-morning overpass of the Landsat-8 satellite provided a 30-meter resolution view (below) of the circular and rectangular irrigated agricultural fields in far southwestern Kansas and parts of the Oklahoma panhandle. In this RGB image (viewed using RealEarth), snow cover appears as cyan; in areas without snow cover, bare ground is brown and vegetation (crops) are green.

Landsat-8 False-color RGB image, with Google maps background [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 False-color RGB image, with Google maps background [click to enlarge]

How long can Tornado Scars last?

July 15th, 2015 |
MODIS True-Color Image, June 9, 2007 (left) and July 15, 2015 (right) (click to enlarge)

MODIS True-Color Image, June 9, 2007 (left) and July 15, 2015 (right) (click to enlarge)

On 07 June 2007, severe thunderstorms moved through the Upper Midwest (blog post on that event), spawning strong tornadoes; from the SPC Storm Reports comments:

HUNDREDS OF TREES DOWN NORTH OF ZOAR. (GRB)

NUMEROUS TREES DOWN OF 1 FOOT DIAMETER AND GREATER. TRACK WAS APPROXIMATELY 1/4 MILE IN LENGTH AND 125 YARDS WIDE (MQT)

Terra MODIS data on 09 June 2007 (in the image above, at left) showed a tornado scar (much longer than 1/4 mile in length) running southwest-to-northeast through heavily forested Menominee County into Langlade County and then Oconto County in northeast Wisconsin. Terra MODIS True-Color imagery from 15 July 2015 (also in the image above, at right) (cropped from imagery at the MODIS Today website), shows that a scar persists more than 8 years later! (This persistent scar has been mentioned before on this blog here in 2009 and here in 2011).

Landsat-8 overflew northeast Wisconsin on 15 July 2015, at nearly the same time as the Terra MODIS imagery above, and those views, captured via SSEC‘s RealEarth are shown below. The scar is more evident in the shortwave infrared (Band 6, 1.61 µm) than the visible (Band 3, 0.56 µm) because the shortwave infrared channel is more sensitive to changes in vegetation. Lakes are also far more apparent in the 1.61 µm imagery because water absorbs 1.61 µm radiation; little is scattered back to the satellite for detection and water therefore appears black.

Landsat-8 band 3 (0.56 µm) and Band 6 (1.61 µm) imagery, ~1640 UTC July 15, 2015 (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 band 3 and Band 6 imagery, ~1640 UTC July 15, 2015 (click to enlarge)


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In April 2011, an historic tornadic event occurred over the Deep South that spawned numerous strong long-track tornadoes (blog post). The tornado paths from this event were also visible from both MODIS and GOES imagery (Link). The animation below shows MODIS true color imagery from before the tornadoes, from several days after, and from early May this year. Three distinct tornado scars remain in Alabama: One runs from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, a second is south of Tuscaloosa, and a third is north of Tuscaloosa.

MODIS True-Color Imagery over Alabama, 13 April and 29 April in 2011 and 01 May in 2015 (click to enlarge)

MODIS True-Color Imagery over Alabama, 13 April and 29 April in 2011 and 01 May in 2015 (click to enlarge)

Ice over the Great Lakes

April 17th, 2015 |
Suomi-NPP Imagery:  Visible (0.64µm), Day Night Band (0.70µm) and near-IR (0.85µm) (click to enlarge)

Suomi-NPP Imagery: Visible (0.64µm), Day Night Band (0.70µm) and near-IR (0.86µm) images (click to enlarge)

Visible Imagery over the Great Lakes on Friday April 17th showed mostly open waters over the five lakes, with regions that could be ice confined to coastlines of Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Michigan. The animation above is of Suomi NPP VIIRS visible (0.64µm and 0.70µm) and near-infrared (0.86µm) data. Can you tell with certainty which of the white features over the lakes are clouds vs. ice?

Suomi-NPP Infrared Imagery (3.74 µm),  (click to enlarge)

Suomi-NPP Infrared Imagery (3.74 µm) (click to enlarge)

Infrared data can give clues. The 3.74 µm imagery, above, shows the brightness temperature. Note how the white regions over Lakes Superior, Michigan and Ontario are about the same temperature as the surrounding water. In contrast, white regions over Lakes Erie and Ontario are much darker (warmer) in the 3.74 µm than the surrounding water. This is testimony to the superior scattering abilities around 3.74 µm of water-based clouds compared to lake ice. More solar radiation scattered towards the satellite by the clouds means a warmer temperature is detected.

Suomi-NPP Imagery:  Toggle between Visible (0.64µm) and near-IR (1.61 µm) (click to enlarge)

Suomi-NPP Imagery: Visible (0.64µm) and near-IR (1.61 µm) (click to enlarge)

The 1.61 µm near-infrared channel is useful because ice strongly absorbs solar radiation at that wavelength, appearing dark. The toggle above, of visible (0.64) and near-infrared (1.61) neatly distinguishes between clouds and ice. Ice (dark in the 1.61 µm because it does not reflect; at that wavelength, it absorbs) is apparent over eastern Lake Superior, eastern and northern Lake Huron and some small bays in northern Lake Michigan. There is no ice apparent on Lakes Erie or Ontario: features there exhibit signatures which are white in both visible and at 1.61 µm.

Another method to aid in the discrimination of snow/ice vs supercooled water droplet clouds is the creation of Red/Green/Blue (RGB) products. The example below toggles between the 0.64 µm visible image and an RGB image (which uses the VIIRS 0.64 µm/1.61 µm/1.61 µm data as the R/G/B components) — snow cover and ice appear as darker shades of red on the RGB image (in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds, which are brighter shades of white). The snow depth on the morning of 17 April was still 13 inches at Munising in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible and false-color RGB images (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible and false-color RGB images (click to enlarge)

On this day there was only 1 pass of the Landsat-8 satellite over any of the ice-covered portions of the Great Lakes; the 15-meter resolution panchromatic visible (0.59 µm) image below shows a very detailed view of the far western portion of the ice that was north of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior (zoomed image).

Landsat-8 panchromatic visible (0.59 µm) image (click to enlarge)

Landsat-8 panchromatic visible (0.59 µm) image (click to enlarge)

Terra and Aqua both carry the MODIS sensor, and MODIS can detect radiation at 1.38 µm, a wavelength at which cirrus is highly reflective. A 1.38 µm image from the 17th, below, shows the horizontal extent of cirrus.

MODIS Imagery:  near-IR (1.38 µm) (click to enlarge)

MODIS Imagery: near-IR (1.38 µm) (click to enlarge)