Aircraft dissipation trails and “hole punch clouds” over Florida

December 12th, 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)

McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie) revealed numerous aircraft dissipation trails and “hole punch clouds” which formed over southern Florida and the adjacent waters of the Atlantic Ocean on 12 December 2014. These features are formed when an aircraft penetrates a supercooled cloud layer — the particles in the exhaust act as ice nuclei which allow the supercooled water droplets to transform into ice crystals.

A comparison of 250-meter resolution Terra MODIS true-color and false-color Red/GreenBlue (RGB) images from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) confirmed that the clouds within the dissipation trails and the hole punch features had glaciated — ice crystal clouds appear as shades of cyan in the false-color image, in contrast to supercooled water droplet cloud which appear as varying shades of white.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color images

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color images

Significant rainfall event in California

December 2nd, 2014
MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product, with surface analysis overlays

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product, with surface analysis overlays

As of 25 November 2014, much of the state of California was experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions.  However, the development of a large occluded mid-latitude cyclone over the far eastern Pacific Ocean during the 01 December – 02 December time period began to draw high values (up to 60 mm or 2.4 inches, darker red color enhancement) of total precipitable water (TPW) northward from the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), as seen on AWIPS images of the MIMIC TPW product (above). While the rainfall was beneficial in terms of drought mitigation, amounts of up to 12 inches did cause flooding and mudslide problems in some locations.

An animation of hourly MIMIC TPW images from 30 November – 02 December (below; click image to play animation) showed the northward surge of moisture toward the California coast, and also hinted at a complex inner structure associated with the occluded low.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation)

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation

Comparison of MODIS 6.7 um and GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images

Comparison of MODIS 6.7 um and GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images

On 02 December, comparisons of AWIPS II images of 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm and 4-km resolution GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel data around 11 UTC (above) and around 22 UTC (below) demonstrated the importance of improved spatial resolution for more clearly identifying some of the smaller-scale structure features within the core of the occluded low.

Comparison of MODIS 6.7 µm and GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images

Comparison of MODIS 6.7 µm and GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 22:18 UTC (below) shows a few areas of embedded convection, some of which had produced cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the hour preceding the images.

Suomi NPP VIIS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Snowpack in the Sierras as seen by Terra and Aqua

November 30th, 2014
AquaTerra_TrueColor_November_2007_2014

Terra or Aqua True-Color Images for dates in late November, 2007-2014 (Exact dates in small caption top center of images) (click to play animation)

MODIS True-Color imagery at SSEC‘s MODIS Today website includes daily data starting in late 2007. These images can provide a brief climatology for surface/atmospheric conditions. The animation above shows snowpack over the Sierras and the intermountain west for one day (either the 24th or 29th) in late November from 2007 through 2014. Snowcover was abundant in 2010 (Click here for the November 2010 San Francisco Climatograph), but most other Novembers show scant snowpack in the Sierras. The snowpack in 2014 is less extensive than in 2013 or 2012, but still more than in 2007.

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AquaTerra_TrueColor_November_2007_2014

Terra or Aqua True-Color Images for dates in late November, 2001-2014 (click to play animation)

The MODIS Direct Broadcast website at CIMSS/SSEC also has true-color imagery, dating back to 2001. The animation above shows the Southwest US sectors that are available, with an image each year near the end of November. Again, late November 2010 is the snowiest; late 2014 is comparable to many years after 2006. The year with the least snowcover in late November is 2007.

Major lake effect snow event downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario

November 18th, 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)

Cold arctic air (surface air temperatures in the upper teens to lower 20s F) flowing across the still-warm waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (sea surface temperature values as warm as the middle to upper 40s F) were 2 ingredients that helped create a major lake effect snowfall event on 18 November 2014 (VIIRS visible image with surface analysis). Storm total snowfall amounts were as high as 65 inches in Erie County, New York (NWS Buffalo Public Information Statement). GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the large and well defined single-band lake effect cloud features that developed over each of the lakes. The band over Lake Erie was nearly stationary for several hours, producing snowfall rates as high as 4 inches per hour at some locations in the Southtowns of Buffalo. The stationary behavior (and very sharp northern edge, due to a “locked thermal convergence zone“) of the Lake Erie snow band was quite evident on composite radar reflectivity (below; click image to play animation; images courtesy of the College of DuPage). The formation and growth of this band benefited from a long fetch of southwesterly winds oriented along the axis of Lake Erie.  Isolated negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were observed at 16:45 and 22:15 UTC, implying the presence of embedded pockets of thundersnow.

Composite radar reflectivity (click to play animation)

Composite radar reflectivity (click to play animation)

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 18:17 UTC or 1:17 pm local time is shown below. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -37º C (green color enhancement), which corresponded to a pressure of 437 hPa (or an altitude around 6 km) on the 12 UTC Buffalo NY rawinsonde report.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Comparisons of Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images covering the Lake Erie/Lake Ontario region along with a high-resolution view centered on Buffalo NY are shown below.

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

A 15-meter resolution Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible channel image from the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed great detail to the Lake Ontario snow band as it was moving inland over the Watertown NY area at 15:45 UTC.

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image

Looking back to the preceding nighttime hours, a toggle between Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and 11.45-3.74 µm IR brightness temperature difference “Fog/stratus product” images at 06:54 UTC or 1:54 am local time (below) showed that the lake effect bands were already well-developed, with minimum 11.45 µm IR brightness temperatures of -30º C and colder (yellow color enhancement). Even with minimal lunar illumination — the Moon was in the Waning Crescent phase, at only 7% of full — the lake effect cloud bands features could still be seen on the Day/Night Band image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and “Fog/stratus product” images

For a more in-depth discussion of this lake effect snow event, watch the VISIT Satellite Chat session.