First full day of Summer: snow in the Brooks Range of Alaska

June 22nd, 2016

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) showed the southeastward migration of an upper-level low across the North Slope and the eastern Brooks Range of Alaska during the 21 June – 22 June 2016 period. A potential vorticity (PV) anomaly was associated with this disturbance, which brought the dynamic tropopause — taken to be the pressure of the PV 1.5 surface — downward to below the 600 hPa pressure level over northern Alaska. Several inches of snow were forecast to fall in higher elevations of the eastern portion of the Brooks Range.

With the very large satellite viewing angle (or “zenith angle”) associated with GOES-15 imagery over Alaska  — which turns out to be 73.8 degrees for Fairbanks — the altitude of the peak of the Imager 6.5 µm water vapor weighting function (below) was shifted to higher altitudes (in this case, calculated using rawinsonde data from 12 UTC on 22 June, near the 300 hPa pressure level).

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Imager water vapor (Band 3, 6.5 µm) weighting function [click to enlarge]

The ABI instrument on GOES-R will have 3 water vapor bands, roughly comparable to the 3 water vapor bands on the GOES-15 Sounder — the weighting functions for those 3 GOES-15 Sounder water vapor bands (calculated using the same Fairbanks rawinsonde data) are shown below. Assuming a similar spatial resolution as the Imager, the GOES-15 Sounder bands 11 (7.0 µm, green) and 12 (7.4 µm, red) would have allowed better sampling and visualization of the lower-altitude portion of this particular storm system. The 3 ABI water vapor bands are nearly identical to those on the Himawari-8 AHI instrument; an example of AHI water vapor imagery over part of Alaska can be seen here.

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Sounder water vapor weighting function plots [click to enlarge]

As the system departed and the clouds began to dissipate on 22 June, GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) did indeed show evidence of bright white snow-covered terrain on the northern slopes and highest elevations of the Brooks Range.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

A sequence of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images (below) showed a view of the storm during the 21-22 June period, along with the resultant snow cover on 22 June. However, the snow quickly began to melt as the surface air temperature rebounded into the 50’s and 60’s F at some locations.

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

POES AVHRR Visible (0.86 µm) images [click to play animation]

The increase in fresh snow cover along the northern slopes and the highest elevations of the central and northeastern Brooks Range — most notably from Anaktuvuk Pass to Fort Yukon to Sagwon — was evident in a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from 17 June and 22 June, as viewed using RealEarth (below). The actual time of the satellite overpass on 22 June was 2134 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB images, 17 June and 22 June [click to enlarge]

Southwest US summer solstice: smoke, and solar panels

June 20th, 2016

 

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A nighttime comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 0853 UTC on 20 June 2016 (above) revealed 2 key features of the large Cedar Fire that had been burning in eastern Arizona: (1) the fire “hot spot” signature (black to yellow to red pixels) on the Shortwave Infrared image, located about 20 miles southwest of Show Low (KSOW), and (2) an approximately 50-mile-wide pall of dense smoke aloft — illuminated by a nearly-full Moon — that had drifted westward then northwestward during the previous 24 hours and was centered northwest of Prescott (KPRC). Note that there was no signature of this smoke feature on the Infrared Window image, since smoke is effectively transparent to infrared radiation.

During the following afternoon hours, a toggle between 2117 UTC Aqua MODIS Near-Infrared “Cirrus detection” (1.61 µm), Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm) and Topography images (below) showed that the smoke aloft had moved northward during the day and was over far northwestern Arizona and southwestern Utah. On the Visible image, the dense layer of smoke obscured the view of surface features that are normally seen on a cloud-free day, but the edges of the smoke feature were difficult or impossible to identify. However, the smoke feature was quite evident on the Near-Infrared “Cirrus detection” image — due to the fact that this spectral band (which will be on the GOES-R ABI instrument) is useful for detecting features composed of particles that are efficient scatterers of light (such as cirrus cloud ice crystals, airborne dust or volcanic ash, and in this case, smoke). As was seen in the VIIRS example above, there was no signature of the smoke on the Infrared Window image — the cooler (lighter gray) shades seen in that region were a result of higher terrain that exhibited cooler brightness temperatures due to more abundant vegetation.

Aqua MODIS Near-Infrared Cirrus (1.16 µm), Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm), and Topography images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Near-Infrared Cirrus (1.61 µm), Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm), and Topography images [click to enlarge]

An animation of GOES-15 (GOES-West) Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) showed the aforementioned Cedar Fire smoke in northwestern Arizona early in the day (highlighted by a favorable forward scattering sun-satellite geometry), and also showed the smaller smoke plume from the Reservoir Fire that had just begun burning northeast of Los Angeles. In addition, the brief appearance of bright white flashes across Southern California and extreme southern Nevada (as seen on the 1800, 1830, 1841 and 1845 UTC images) were a result of reflection of sunlight from large solar panel farms.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

 

Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) in Texas

June 12th, 2016

GOES-13 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images (above) showed a large Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) that developed in far eastern New Mexico after 2000 UTC on 11 June 2016, then moved eastward and eventually southward over West Texas during the nighttime hours on 12 June. The MCS produced wind gusts to 75 mph and hail of 1.00 inch in diameter in Texas (SPC storm reports).

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]


Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images at 0801 UTC or 3:01 am local time (above) showed cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures were as cold as -83º C (violet color enhancement), along with a number of bright streaks on the Day/Night Band image due to cloud illumination by intense lightning activity (there were around 5000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes associated with this MCS). On the infrared image, note the presence of cloud-top gravity waves propagating outward away from the core of overshooting tops.

This MCS produced heavy rainfall, with as much as 3.44 inches reported near Lomax (NWS Midland TX rainfall map | PNS). An animation of radar reflectivity (below, courtesy of Brian Curran, NWS Midland) showed the strong convective cells moving southward (before the Midland radar was struck by lightning and temporarily rendered out of service).

Midland, Texas radar reflectivity [click to play MP4 animation]

Midland, Texas radar reflectivity [click to play MP4 animation]

During the subsequent daytime hours, GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) revealed the presence of a large and well-defined Mesoscale Convective Vortex (MCV) as the cirrus canopy from the decaying MCS eroded. A fantastic explanation of this MCV was included in the afternoon forecast discussion from NWS Dallas/Fort Worth. New thunderstorms were seen to develop over North Texas during the late afternoon and early evening hours as the MCV approached — there were isolated reports of hail and damaging winds with this new convection (SPC storm reports). Initiation of this new convection may have also been aided by convergence of the MCV with a convective outflow boundary moving southward from Oklahoma.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

A sequence of Visible images from POES AVHRR (0.86 µm), Terra MODIS (0.65 µm), and Suomi NPP VIIRS (0.64 µm) (below) showed snapshots of the MCV at various times during the day.

Visible images from POES AVHRR (0.86 µm), Terra MODIS (0.65 µm), and Suomi NPP VIIRS (0.64 µm) [click to enlarge]

Visible images from POES AVHRR (0.86 µm), Terra MODIS (0.65 µm), and Suomi NPP VIIRS (0.64 µm) [click to enlarge]

Wildfire on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia

June 7th, 2016

Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation]

A large wildfire had been burning for several days from late May into early June 2016 (VIIRS fire detection hot spots) near the west coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. On 07 June, Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) showed smoke from the wildfire which became entrained within the clockwise circulation of a weak area of low pressure (surface analyses) just off the coast over the Sea of Okhotsk. Beneath the smoke aloft, a swirl of low-level stratus cloud associated with this low was also very apparent. Other features of interest seen in the 0.5 km resolution 10-minute imagery include the intermittent formation of standing wave clouds over the high terrain (east of the fire), and small ice floes drifting westward just off the coast of Magadan Oblast (northwest of the fire).

A closer view using Himawari-8 Visible (0.64 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (below) revealed numerous hot spots (dark black to yellow to red pixels) around the periphery of the burn scar of the large fire, along with the brief development of small pyrocumulus clouds over some of the larger, more active fires. Note that the ABI instrument on GOES-R will provide similar imagery at high spatial (0.5 km visible, 2 km infrared) and temporal (5 minute Full Disk coverage) resolutions.

Himawari-8 0.64 µm Visible (top) and 3.9 µm Shortwave Infrared (bottom) images [click to play animation]

Himawari-8 0.64 µm Visible (top) and 3.9 µm Shortwave Infrared (bottom) images [click to play animation]

A Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image viewed using RealEarth (below) provided a high-resolution view of the fire region and the plume of smoke curving around the low pressure feature.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image [click to enlarge]