Severe thunderstorms causing damaging winds across Missouri and Arkansas

July 14th, 2015
GOES-13 sounder CAPE derived product images (click to play animation)

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

GOES-13 sounder Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) derived product images (above; click to play animation) showed a large cluster of of severe thunderstorms that developed in eastern Kansas and moved southeastward across southern Missouri into northern Arkansas during the day on 14 July 2015. Due to strong surface heating and ample low-level moisture ahead of the storms, the atmosphere became quite unstable with GOES sounder CAPE values reaching the 5800-6000 J/kg range (lighter violet color enhancement) by 16 UTC. A long swath of damaging winds (SPC storm reports) was produced by these storms.

The visible and infrared images below show snapshots of this severe convective cluster at 3 different times, using high-resolution data from instruments on polar-orbiting satellites: Terra MODIS at 1657 UTC, Suomi NPP VIIRS at 1851 UTC, and POES AVHRR at 1916 UTC. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were -83º C on the MODIS image, -86º C on the VIIRS image, and -87º C on the AVHRR image.

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 11.0 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1657 UTC [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 11.0 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1657 UTC [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1851 UTC [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1851 UTC [click to enlarge]

POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel and 12.0 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1916 UTC [click to enlarge]

POES AVHRR 0.86 µm visible channel and 12.0 µm IR channel images (with SPC storm reports) at 1916 UTC [click to enlarge]

Strong Convection over the Upper Midwest

July 13th, 2015
MODIS 11 µm infrared imagery and GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, 0400 UTC (Click to enlarge)

MODIS 11 µm infrared imagery and GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, 0400 UTC 13 July 2015 (click to enlarge)

A strong mesoscale convective system (MCS) moving southeastward through the Upper Midwest from late 12 July 2015 into early morning 13 July caused numerous severe wind reports across Minnesota and Wisconsin. This MCS was forecast to drop southeastward and continue to produce severe weather during the day on 13 July 2015 (Storm Prediction Center outlook). The toggle above shows the 0420 UTC Terra MODIS 11.0 µm image and the 0400 UTC GOES-13 Sounder DPI Lifted Index product (which is available in realtime here). As the MCS moved over southern Wisconsin, the coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature on the 0826 UTC MODIS 11.0 µm IR image was -85º C. The strong system continued to move southeastward as very unstable air as diagnosed by the Sounder fed into it (click here for 850-mb RAOB plots). The 0746 UTC Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image, below, also toggled with a GOES-13 Sounder Lifted Index product, showed a similar story: very strong convection downwind of a source of strong instability. The GOES Sounder can also diagnose Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), with values from 5000-6000 J/kg seen over southern Minnesota and eastern Iowa.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm infrared imagery and GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, 0746/0800 UTC (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm infrared imagery and GOES Sounder DPI Lifted Index, 0746/0800 UTC 13 July 2015 (click to enlarge)

The Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band, below, which is a source of visible imagery at night, depicted signatures of the active lightning that accompanied this system: numerous along-scan bright streaks over southern Wisconsin were caused by lightning illuminating the cloud as the VIIRS instruments scanned the cloud top. This toggle showed a comparison of Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm Infrared imagery.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band 0.70 µm visible imagery 0746 UTC (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band 0.70 µm visible imagery 0746 UTC 13 July 2015 (click to enlarge)

A closer view comparing the 0746 UTC VIIRS IR and Day/Night Band images, below, includes overlays of METAR reports and both 15-minute and 1-hour cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. The coldest VIIRS cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -78º C.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with overlays of METAR surface reports and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with overlays of METAR surface reports and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes (click to enlarge)

At 0805 UTC, the coldest CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Top Temperature value was -81º C, with maximum Cloud Top Height values of 15 km along the southwestern portion of the MCS.

POES AVHRR Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Height products at 0805 UTC (click to enlarge)

POES AVHRR Cloud Top Temperature and Cloud Top Height products at 0805 UTC (click to enlarge)

This image of Radar Composites of the main line of storms was produced by Greg Carbin of SPC and was posted on Facebook on 13 July 2015.

Severe Thunderstorms over Northern Illinois

June 10th, 2015

GOES-14 Visible (0.6263 µm, top) and GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm, bottom) imagery centered over Illinois, 10 June 2015 [Click to animate]

GOES-14 Visible (0.6263 µm, top) and GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm, bottom) imagery centered over Illinois, 10 June 2015 [Click to animate]

GOES-14, in SRSO-R mode, captured the quick development of severe thunderstorms over northern Illinois late in the afternoon on 10 June 2015. Many of these storms produced large hail — especially in Will County and in Grundy County, where the second largest hailstone on record for the state of Illinois was measured (NWS Chicago summary). This event is also discussed on the GOES-R Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) Blog: before initiation, during convective initiation, lightning jumps and ProbSevere (first post, second post), and Overshooting top detection. The animation above compares GOES-14 SRSO-R imagery (top) with GOES-13 in Routine Scanning mode (until 2045 UTC) and in Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode after 2115 UTC on 10 June 2015 (a smaller version of this large animated gif is also available as an mp4).

The GOES-14 SRSO-R imagery depicts the convection evolving in a fluid atmosphere. Even the relatively fast GOES-13 RSO time-step cannot capture the full evolution and decay of overshooting tops.  On the 1-minute GOES-14 images, note the development of prominent cloud-top plumes which spread out southeastward away from the more robust overshooting top regions, and also cloud-top gravity waves which form along the southeastern flank of some of the larger thunderstorm anvils. Another advantage of SRSO-R compared to the routine scanning strategy using visible imagery is discussed here.

A wider-scale view of the evolution of the atmosphere on 10 June over the Upper Midwest is available here as a YouTube video, here as an mp4, and here as an animated gif image (warning: 300+ Megabyte file). A closer-scale view of the developing convection with GOES-14 visible images is available as an mp4 movie file, or on YouTube; an animation of GOES-14 10.7 µm IR images is available as an mp4 file.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with SPC storm reports of large hail and damaging winds

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with SPC storm reports of large hail and damaging winds

The line of severe thunderstorms developed just ahead of a cold frontal boundary (animation) that was sagging southward and stalling across northern Illinois during the day on 10 June. About an hour before the 4.75-inch diameter hail was reported in Minooka IL (located about 12 miles southwest of Joliet, KJOT), a 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image at 2316 UTC (above) showed that particular cluster of thunderstorms just southwest of the Chicago area around the time of initial hail report (1.25 inch diameter at 2318 UTC); less than a half hour later there was a report of 2.00 inch hail at 2345 UTC. Farther to the southwest, the larger thunderstorm complex was also producing hail and damaging winds, near and to the southwest of the region of coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (-77º C) exhibited by the overshooting tops.

GOES-13 sounder Lifted Index derived product images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 sounder Lifted Index derived product images [click to play animation]

Hourly derived product images (DPI) of GOES-13 sounder Lifted Index (above) and Total Precipitable Water (below) revealed that a broad axis of instability and moisture existed across northern Illinois ahead of the approaching cold frontal boundary. Lifted Index values reached the -8º to -10º C range (red colors); Total Precipitable Water values were generally in the 40 to 50 mm or 1.6 to 2.0 inch range (red colors), with some locations as high as 53 mm or 2.1 inches (violet colors). The presence of this instability and moisture helped to create an environment favorable for the rapid growth of strong to severe convection.

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 sounder Total Precipitable Water derived product images [click to play animation]

GOES-14 SRSO-R imagery: “mystery feature” over eastern Tennessee

May 21st, 2015


 

GOES-14 remained in Super Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSO-R) demonstration mode on 21 May 2015, providing 1-minute images for much of the eastern US (see this blog post) — and another interesting feature was seen over eastern Tennessee that was rather perplexing. Since this easily qualified for the “What the heck is this?” blog category, we thought it might be fun to have a contest of sorts and invite readers to submit their wild guesses and/or educated explanations. We will post more imagery later in the day on 22 May as to our explanation — but in the meantime, leave a comment on the blog (comments are moderated, so they will not appear until approved), or send your thoughts to our Twitter account.

—– 22 May Update —–

Thanks to all who submitted their suggestions here and on Twitter of an explanation of the “What the heck is this” feature; Here is our best guess:

GOES-13 (GOES-East) visible, 3.9 µm shortwave IR, 6.5 µm, and 10.7 µm IR images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 (GOES-East) visible, 3.9 µm shortwave IR, 6.5 µm, and 10.7 µm IR images [click to play animation]

The first step in trying to understand what might be causing this interesting feature was to examine 4-panel images showing imagery from other GOES channels (or spectral bands): in this case, the 3.9 µm “shortwave IR” channel, the 6.5 µm “water vapor” channel, and the 10.7 µm “IR window channel” (above; click image to play animation). The 3.9 µm IR brightness temperatures of cloud features were in the +20 to +25º range, while the 10.7 µm IR brightness temperatures were in the +3 to +5º C range — the significantly warmer shortwave IR temperatures indicates that the clouds were comprised of liquid or supercooled cloud droplets. Otherwise, no significant clues were seen on the IR (or the water vapor) images.

However, the METAR surface reports offer an important clue: a rain shower moved from southwest to northeast through the region during the preceding overnight hours with the passage of a weak low pressure system (surface analyses), with Knoxville (station identifier KTYS) receiving 0.23″ and Oak Ridge (KOQT) receiving 0.10″ of rainfall (radar-estimated 24-hour precipitation). Therefore, one plausible explanation of the feature seen on visible imagery is that it was a shallow pool of stable, rain-cooled air near the surface that was spreading out and flowing downslope (westward) into the Great Valley of East Tennessee during the morning and early afternoon hours.

While the outer edges of this rain-cooled stable air feature remained generally cloud-free, the inner core exhibited a good deal of cloud development (including what appeared to be a more dense northwest-to-southeast oriented cloud band through the middle). An overlay of hourly RTMA surface winds (below; click image to play animation) indicated that there was convergence within the feature (to the lee of higher terrain within the Cumberland Plateau), which along with daytime heating of the moist soil would have helped to promote such shallow cloud development.

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with RTMA surface winds [click to play animation]

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images, with RTMA surface winds [click to play animation]

For clouds within expanding the rain-cooled boundary at 1534 UTC, the CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Type was liquid, with Cloud Top Height values of 1-3 km and Cloud Top Temperature values of +2 to +10º C (below).

CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Type, Cloud Top Height, and Cloud Top Temperature products

CLAVR-x POES AVHRR Cloud Type, Cloud Top Height, and Cloud Top Temperature products