The GOES-14 satellite was in Super Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSOR) mode, providing images at 1-minute intervals over the southeastern US on 21 August 2014. An animation of 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click to play YouTube movie) showed the development of numerous large thunderstorms, many of which were focused along surface boundaries such as the sea breeze and convective outflow boundaries from adjacent storms. The YouTube video is best viewed in Full Screen mode, using the “Gear” icon to select 1080p HD resolution.
A supercell thunderstorm intensified as it moved eastward across the Chesapeake Bay (just ahead of an approaching surface cold front) on the morning of 24 July 2014 — as it reached the Virginia shore of the Delmarva Peninsula, it produced an EF-1 tornado and damaging straight line winds that were responsible for 2 fatalities and 36 injuries at the Cherrystone Family Camping Resort (located at the * symbol on the images). The storm also produced golf ball to baseball size hail (NWS damage survey | SPC storm reports). McIDAS images of GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel data (above; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) showed that the cloud-top IR brightness temperatures associated with the storm cooled quickly, from -45º C at 11:15 UTC to -64º C at 12:30 UTC. The temperature value was close to that of the tropopause (at a height of 15.4 km) on the 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Wallops Island, Virginia.
The corresponding GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed the presence of an overshooting top at 12:30 UTC (the time that the IR cloud-top brightness temperature values reached their minimum), which was also flagged by the automated Overshooting Tops detection algorithm.
AWIPS-II images of the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product (below) followed the radar feature associated with the supercell thunderstorm. Around 11:30 UTC, the ProbSevere value was low, around 5-10%, a result of weak satellite-detected growth (and moderate glaciation) early in the storm’s life, along with low values of MRMS Maximum Expected Size of Hail (MESH). Environmental parameters from the Rapid Refresh model that were supportive of convection: MUCAPE exceeded 2200 J Kg and Shear values were greater than 30 m/s. As the cell tracked to the east and began to move over Chesapeake Bay, both MUCAPE and Shear gradually increased, to values near 2400 J/kg and 35 m/s, respectively. MRMS MESH was oscillating as the cell approached Chesapeake Bay, from 0.44 inches at 11:42 UTC (ProbSevere value of 10%) to 0.37 inches at 11:46 UTC (ProbSevere of 7%) to 0.65 inches at 11:48 UTC (ProbSevere of 29%) to 0.56 inches at 12:00 UTC (ProbSevere of 18%). As the storm moved over the Bay, MESH sizes jumped, to 0.86″ at 12:04 UTC (ProbSevere of 58%, the first crossing of the 50% threshold), to 1.02″ at 12:06 UTC (ProbSevere of 71%), to 1.86″ at 12:12 UTC (ProbSevere of 92% , the first crossing of the 90% threshold), and to 3.09″ (!) at 12:16 UTC (ProbSevere of 91%). At 12:20 UTC, when the Tornado Warning was issued, MRMS MESH was 3.51″ and ProbSevere remained at 91%. Thus, the warning was issued 16 minutes after ProbSevere exceeded 50%, and 8 minutes after ProbSevere was greater than 90%. The NWS storm survey indicated that the campsite fatalities occurred around 12:33 UTC, or 13 minutes after the issuance of the tornado warning.
The rapid intensification of the system as it moved over the Chesapeake begs the question: was instability diagnosed? In the animation below, GOES-13 sounder Derived Product Images (DPI) of Lifted Index (top panel) and CAPE (bottom panel) showed a rich source of instability just south of the cloud-obscuring convection (and ahead of the southward-moving cold front). Lifted Index values derived at 1147 UTC were around -6 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay (bright yellow enhancement); CAPE values were around 2500 J/kg (yellow and red enhancements).
Arkansas and surrounding states experiences strong convectively-forced winds on July 23 2014 (SPC Storm Reports for the day are shown below). The visible imagery, above, shows the merging of two convective systems: one is moving south-southeastward through eastern Kansas and one is building southwestward from the lower Ohio River Valley into northern Arkansas. (Mesoscale Discussions for this event were issued from SPC at 1656 UTC, 1827 UTC and 2001 UTC on the 23rd).
Analyses from the GOES-13 Sounder (above) showed the atmosphere into which the convective features were building to be very unstable. A large area with Lifted Indices around -10 (light red) is present; values exceed -12 (purple) at 1800 UTC. GOES Sounder DPI Analyses of CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy, below) (from this site) likewise show strong instability at the start of the day. Convection is initially at both ends of the area of most unstable air; by 1900 UTC, the end of the animation, it has overspread the entire region of instability.
The GOES-13 Infrared Imagery, above, likewise shows the convective systems from Kansas and from the lower Ohio Valley merging over Arkansas.
Suomi-NPP VIIRS data were available over Arkansas on two successive passes on 23 July, at 1829 UTC and 2010 UTC, and these high-resolution infrared images show the quick development and vigor of the convection. The high resolution allowed for the detection of very cold cloud tops at 2010 UTC; minimum values were near -88ºC! Coldest GOES-13 10.7 Brightness Temperatures at 2015 UTC (not shown) were -78ºC.
The storms produced considerable lightning as well, as shown in the animation below that overlays hourly lightning strikes on top of the Suomi NPP 11.35 µm imagery: there were 5800 strikes (400 positive) in the hour ending at 1800 UTC, and 12000 strikes (800 positive) in the hour ending at 2000 UTC!
NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere showed values from 80-95% at the leading edge of the convection as it moved southward through Arkansas. In this event, satellite data were not available as one of the ProbSevere predictors because of the widespread cirrus shield. MRMS Mesh was generally in the 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ range; that combines with model CAPE values exceeding 4000 and generous shear lead to the high ProbSevere values.
Overshooting Tops, such as those apparent in the 11.35 µm imagery from Suomi NPP, above, can be detected automatically in GOES-13 10.7 µm imagery. The animation of auto-detected overshooting tops, below, from this site, shows a peak in convective intensity (as measured by the number of overshoots) between 2000 and 2100 UTC on the 23rd. This image shows the daily sum of detected overshoots. There is good spatial correlation between that image and the storm reports.
Finally, CRiS/ATMS data can be used to generate soundings (NUCAPS Soundings) that are available in AWIPS II. The image below shows the spatial coverage of soundings at 2000 UTC on 23 July. The NUCAPS sounding from the easternmost column, third point south of the Oklahoma/Texas border, bottom, is shown at the bottom of the post. The boundary layer of this sounding is too cool and dry — the surface temperature is around 80º F and the surface dewpoint is in the mid-60s. Consequently, the MUCAPE is far too small (about 120 J per kilogram). If the sounding is edited so that surface values are closer to observations (it was 90º F with a 75º F dewpoint in Texarkana at this time) then MUCAPE values jump to near 5000. The sounding is also too dry; the precipitable water is 1.45″ vs. an actual value closer to 2″ at this time.
The storm in the animation above produced baseball-sized hail in Nebraska (Visible animation is here, courtesy Dan Lindsey from NOAA at CIRA) although MRMS Mesh Hail sizes were “only” in the 1-inch range (that is, nickel to quarter size). How did the ProbSevere product, which product includes MRMS Mesh size as a predictor, perform?
The visible and infrared satellite animation, below, shows quick development in the absence of cirrus obscuration, and the ProbSevere Satellite components from 2230 UTC are both characterized as ‘Strong’. The model components of ProbSevere (MUCAPE around 2000 J/kg, shear exceeding 30 knots) are also strong. Probabilities increased from 40% to >80% before the warnings for the cell were issued.
MRMS values in this case were not extreme; indeed, when the first warning was issued, MESH was still less than 1″ (but ProbSevere was >80%). Satellite growth rates and environmental information in this case compensated for the modest MRMS Mesh values.