Severe Tropical Cyclone Ita

April 10th, 2014
MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the development of a distinct eye associated with Intense Cyclone Ita (23P) as it moved southwestward across the Coral Sea toward the coast of Queensland, Australia on 10-11 April 2014. Cyclone Ita exhibited a period of rapid intensification (Advanced Dvorak Technique plot) early on 10 April, reaching Category 4 intensity (JTWC advisory) on the Saffir-Simpson scale (or a Category 5 on the Australian intensity scale: BOM advisory). Ita had been moving through an environment with weak deep layer wind shear and over warm sea surface temperatures, which aided in its intensification.

A timely overpass of a Metop polar-orbiting satellite provided ASCAT surface scatterometer winds at 11:26 UTC, as seen on an image from the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones site (below).

MTSAT-1 10.8 IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

MTSAT-1 10.8 IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

The structure of the eye of Ita was nicely displayed on a TRMM satellite TMI 85 GHz microwave image at 14:32 UTC (below).

TRMM TMI 85 GHz microwave image

TRMM TMI 85 GHz microwave image

A McIDAS-V image comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data at 14:58 UTC (below; courtesy of William Straka, SSEC/CIMSS) showed great detail of the eye and surrounding eyewall region of Ita.

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

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

The first available early-morning MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel image at 20:32 UTC (below) revealed a convective tower within the northeastern portion of the eyewall region, with a distinct overshooting top (10-11 April animation of MTSAT-2 visible images).

MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel image

MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel image

The MTSAT InfraRed/Water Vapor difference product (below; click image to play animation) indicated that overshooting tops were likely around a large area surrounding the core of Ita.

MTSAT IR/WV Difference product (click to play animation)

MTSAT IR/WV Difference product (click to play animation)

===== 11 April Update =====

A TRMM satellite TMI 85 GHz microwave image at 05:23 UTC showed that Ita had a double-eyewall structure as it was close to making landfall, indicating that the cyclone was undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle — this suggests that Ita was in a weakening phase as it made landfall.

TRMM TMI 85 GHz microwave image

TRMM TMI 85 GHz microwave image

Tehuano wind event

April 8th, 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)

As we have seen a number of times during the Winter 2013/2014 season, another strong Tehuano wind event occurred on 08 April 2014. McIDAS images of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed distinct arc clouds marking the leading edge of 2 pulses of gap winds emerging southward over the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The second (later) pulse of gap winds appeared to be stronger, and transported plumes of blowing dust to the south.

A timely overpass of a Metop polar-orbiting satellite provided ASCAT surface scaterometer winds which showed the fanning out of the Tehuano flow at 16:20 UTC (below). An advisory for the development of Storm Force winds had been issued by the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center for the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

MADIS 1-hour interval satellite winds (below; click image to play animation) tracked the velocity of the arc cloud and dust plumes during the day, which were moving at speeds up to 30 knots.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images with MADIS 1-hour satellite winds (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images with MADIS 1-hour satellite winds (click to play animation)

Past cases of well-defined Tehuano wind events can be found here.

Cyclone Gillian in the Indian Ocean

March 24th, 2014
MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the southward motion of Cyclone Gillian as it intensified over the far eastern Indian Ocean to Category 5 intensity on 23 March 2014 (Joint Typhoon Warning Center advisory). A Category 5 tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere (and in the Indian Ocean basin) is a relatively rare event.

An MTSAT-2 IR image from the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones site with an overlay of Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds at 14:20 UTC (below) showed the tight radius of high winds around the center of circulation.

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR image with Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation) revealed the formation of a well-defined eye on 23 March.

MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

MTSAT-2 0.675 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

A plot of the Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT) satellite-based intensity estimate (below) showed the period of rapid intensification on 23 March, with tropcial cyclone Gillian reaching its peak intensity late on 23 March.

Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT) plot for Cyclone Gillian

Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT) plot for Cyclone Gillian

A comparison of MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR channel data and DMSP SSMIS-16 85 GHz microwave brightness temperature data (below) demonstrated the ability of microwave imagery to show important storm details (such as the closed eyewall, and curved spiral bands) that might be obscured by clouds on conventional IR images.

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR image and DMSP SSMIS-16 85 GHz microwave brightness temperature image

MTSAT-2 10.8 µm IR image and DMSP SSMIS-16 85 GHz microwave brightness temperature image

The MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (TPW) product (below; click image to play animation) showed the circulation of high TPW values as Cyclone Gillian began to move southward from Indonesia on 21 March. As the tropical cyclone began to encounter an environment of increasing vertical wind shear poleward of about 20º S latitude, the storm began to rapidly decrease in intensity — and on 26 March Gillian was downgraded to a tropical low.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click to play animation)

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click to play animation)

Blowing dust from Baja California

March 16th, 2014
GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) revealed large plumes of blowing dust and sand, which were moving south/southwestward from the coast of Baja California and western Mexico on 16 March 2014. There were no surface observations in the immediate vicinity of the Baja California dust plume source regions, but farther to the southeast at Loreta (station identifier MMLT) winds gusted to 37 knots or 43 mph at 19 UTC (12 Noon local time), and surface visibility was reduced to 3 miles. Surface winds were likely channelled by the upstream mountainous terrain to reach higher speeds near the dust plume source regions.

A comparison of AWIPS images of Aqua MODIS 0.65 µm visible, 1.38 µm “cirrus detection”, 3.7 µm shortwave IR, 11.0 µm “IR window”, and 6.7 µm water vapor channel data at 21:40 UTC (below) showed the following: (1) the dust/sand plume could also be seen on the 1.38 µm “cirrus detection channel” image, since this channel can be used to identify any airborne particles that are effective scatterers of light (such as cirrus ice crystals, volcanic ash, haze, or dust/sand); (2) while there was no obvious dust/sand signal on the conventional IR window channel image, the much warmer (darker black) signature on the shortwave IR image was due to reflection of incoming solar radiation off the dust/sand particles; (3) on the water vapor image, an undular bore appeared to be developing near the leading edge of the dust/sand plume. According to 1-hour interval MADIS satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (green wind barbs), the plumes were moving toward the southwest at speeds as fast as 25 knots at the time.

Aqua MODIS 0.65 µm visible, 1.38 µm cirrus channel, 3.7 µm shortwave IR, 11.0 µm IR, and 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

Aqua MODIS 0.65 µm visible, 1.38 µm cirrus channel, 3.7 µm shortwave IR, 11.0 µm IR, and 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds (cyan wind barbs) at 17:43 UTC (below) indicated that winds were northeasterly at speeds around 20 knots just off the western coast of Baja California; 18 UTC GOES-15 satellite-derived winds (green wind barbs) tracked the southwestward motion of the dust plumes at speeds of 20-31 knots.

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible image with GOES-15 satellite-derived winds and Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible image with GOES-15 satellite-derived winds and Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

A sequence of true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from Terra MODIS, Suomi NPP VIIRS, and Aqua MODIS viewed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed the southwestward progression of the tan-colored dense plumes of airborne dust/sand from Baja California. In the initial Terra MODIS image, the source region of many of the plumes appeared to be near the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve.

Terra MODIS, Suomi NPP VIIRS, and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra MODIS, Suomi NPP VIIRS, and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images