Fires in Alaska, Canadian smoke over the Lower 48

June 29th, 2015
Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm infrared channel images, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm infrared channel images, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP 0.64 µm visible channel images, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP 0.64 µm visible channel images, times as indicated (click to enlarge)

The 2015 Wildfire Season is off to a quick start in Alaska (continuing an observed trend). This map (from this site) shows more than 300 active fires over Alaska at 2000 UTC on 29 June 2015. This graph (from the Alaska Climate Info Facebook page) compares early burn acreage in 2015 to that in 2004 (the year with the most acreage burned — see this graph, courtesy of Uma Bhatt, University of Alaska-Fairbanks).

Soumi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm infrared imagery from early morning on 29 June 2015 (top) shows numerous wildfire hot spots (dark black pixels) in the region surrounding the Yukon River (the middle portion of the imagery, south of Kotzebue Sound). VIIRS visible imagery from the same time, above, shows an extensive pall of smoke over much of central Alaska.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) imagery (click to play animation)

Meanwhile, thick smoke from fires burning over northern Canada (comparison of VIIRS visible and shortwave IR images from 28 June) was drifting southward over central portions of the Lower 48 states. The smoke plume on 28 June (above) was fairly narrow; however, a much broader and thicker plume was seen moving south on 29 June (GOES visible imagery below, then MODIS/VIIRS true-color RGB imagery as displayed using the SSEC RealEarth web map server). SSEC MODIS Today true-color imagery of this smoke plume is also available here. Pilot reports placed the lower and upper bounds of the thick smoke at 5000 and 17500 feet, with flight visibilities as low as 2 miles at 5000 feet. Some of the smoke subsided to the surface in southeastern South Dakota, restricting the surface visibility at Sioux Falls to 5 miles and raising the Air Quality Index there into the Unhealthy category. In fact, the smoke was so thick over far eastern South Dakota that it had the effect of reducing surface heating and slowing the rise of afternoon temperatures, such that convective temperatures were not being reached and probabilities of precipitation had to be scaled back:

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SIOUX FALLS SD
356 PM CDT MON JUN 29 2015

.SHORT TERM…(THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY)
ISSUED AT 356 PM CDT MON JUN 29 2015

IN ADDITION…THICK PLUME OF SMOKE CONTINUES TO DRIFT SOUTHWARD IMPACTING NEARLY ALL OF THE FORECAST AREA…BUT MOST   NOTABLE ALONG AND EAST OF THE JAMES RIVER VALLEY. BECAUSE OF THIS…AFTERNOON TEMPERATURES ARE ABOUT 2 TO 4 DEGREES
COOLER THAN FORECAST AND WE ARE HAVING A HECK OF A TIME REACHING OUR CONVECTIVE TEMPERATURE. THEREFORE LOWERED THE LATE AFTERNOON AND EVENING POPS IN OUR EASTERN ZONES TO ONLY SLIGHT CHANCE POPS. BUT EVEN THOSE MAY BE TOO HIGH AND IF NOTHING DEVELOPS OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF HOURS…THEY MAY NEED TO BE REMOVED ENTIRELY.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) imagery (click to play animation)

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) imagery (click to play animation)

MODIS and VIIRS true-color imagery (click to enlarge)

MODIS and VIIRS true-color imagery (click to enlarge)

Daytime detection of smoke plumes is not difficult with visible (or true-color) imagery. At night, however, smoke detection is a challenge. The VIIRS Day/Night Band on Suomi NPP can detect smoke when Lunar Illumination is high (although detection is limited to one or sometimes two passes per night). Smoke is otherwise mostly transparent to infrared channels on the GOES Imager. Websites such as the NOAA/NESDIS IDEA and the GASP are helpful; however, the GASP product uses single-channel (visible) detection only.

Visible imagery from GOES-15, below, highlights the expansive region covered by smoke over northern Canada. Note that the smoke becomes less distinct with time as the sun rises higher in the sky, because forward scattering of visible light by smoke particles is more effective than backward scattering.

GOES-15 Visible (0.62 µm) imagery, times as indicated (click to animate)

GOES-15 Visible (0.62 µm) imagery, times as indicated (click to animate)

GOES-14 in SRSO-R Scanning

May 18th, 2015

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible imagery [click to play animation]

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible imagery [click to play animation]

GOES-14 is producing imagery at 1-minute intervals as part of Super-Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSO-R). Sectors that are scanned change each day and are determined by likely weather events. The animation above, in the southwest corner of the Monday May 18 sector shows strong convection over northern Louisiana. (A similar animation in mp4 format is available here (YouTube)) A benefit of 1-minute imagery is that it can capture the entire lifecycle of overshooting tops, cloud-top features that typically form and decay in less than 10 minutes.

GOES-R is scheduled to launch in March 2016. It will have the capability to provide routine 1-minute imagery over mesoscale-sized domains such as those sampled in the next three weeks by GOES-14. Real-time GOES-14 SRSO imagery is available through the SSEC RealEarth web map server and the GOES-14 SRSOR Imagery site.

Rapid Scan Operations allow the eye to distinguish between upper- and lower-level clouds that typically move at different speeds or in different directions. In the animation below (similar mp4 available here), high clouds over western Pennsylvania are moving over dissipating river fog in the central part of the state. Upper level clouds over southern New York are moving southward; low clouds are moving westward behind a back-door cold front: winds at White Plains, Newark, Trenton (and other stations) have all switched to easterly.

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible imagery [click to play animation]

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible imagery [click to play animation]

Another feature of interest was a thin layer of lake fog that was streaming northward across Lake Michigan during the morning hours, as seen in the animation below (also available as an mp4 movie file). Note the appearance of an undular bore propagating southeastward through the northern portion of the fog at the end of the animation; this may have been caused by an internal reflection of the strong southerly flow impinging upon the rugged southern coastline of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. According to buoy data and the Terra MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product, Lake Michigan waters were still in the upper 30s to low 40s F — it was the pre-cold-frontal southerly flow of much warmer air with dew point values in the 50s and 60s F that led to the formation of the lake fog.

GOES-14 0.62 um visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-14 0.62 um visible channel images [click to play animation]

Rounds of deep convection persisted over parts of the Gulf Coast states during the day, which can be seen in the sunrise-to-sunset animation of GOES-14 visible images below (also available as an MP4 movie file). In Louisiana, some of these storms produced heavy rainfall and flash flooding, with a few water rescues necessary.

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible channel images (click to play YouTube animation)

GOES-14 0.62 µm visible channel images (click to play YouTube animation)

Calbuco volcanic eruption in Chile

April 23rd, 2015
GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible and 10.7 µm IR channel images at 2138 UTC (with surface reports)

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible and 10.7 µm IR channel images at 2138 UTC (with surface reports)

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted around 2103 UTC or 6:03 pm local time on 22 April 2015. The first good satellite view of the volcanic cloud was provided by the 2138 UTC or 6:38 pm local time GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel and 10.7 µm IR channel images (above). The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature at that time was -65º C, which was very close to the tropopause temperature as indicated on the nearby Puerto Montt rawinsonde reports from 1200 UTC on 22 April and 23 April — the height of the tropopause was between 12.3 and 15.6 km on each day (there were 2 tropopause levels TRO1 and TRO2 coded in both of the upper air reports).

However, before the volcanic cloud was seen, a well-defined thermal anomaly or “hot spot” was evident on the previous GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC or 5:45 pm local time (below). The hottest 3.9 µm IR brightness temperature at that time was 340.8 K (red pixel), which is very close to the saturation temperature of the GOES-13 3.9 µm detectors.

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC

GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR image at 2045 UTC

An oblique view of the early stage of the volcanic cloud was captured on a 2100 UTC GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image (below; closer view).

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image at 2100 UTC

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image at 2100 UTC

A sequence of GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 movie file) revealed that there was a second explosive eruption that began sometime before the 0508 UTC or 2:08 am local time image on 23 April. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature with this second eruption was -68º C at 0808 UTC. Also, at 0508 UTC mesospheric airglow waves were seen with Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band imagery.

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR images (click to play animation)

On the morning of 23 April, a 1200 UTC GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image (below) provided a good view of the large areal coverage of volcanic cloud material resulting from the 2 eruptions.

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image

GOES-15 (GOES-West) 0.63 µm visible image

Finally, a before-eruption (21 April) and post-eruption (23 April) comparison of Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images as visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed the effect of ashfall on some of the higher terrain downwind of Calbuco, which was particularly evident on the snow-capped summits of the Osorno and Puyehue volcanoes (yellow arrows).

Before (21 April) and after (23 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Before (21 April) and after (23 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

—– 24 April Update —–

A series of GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval images from the SSEC Volcano Monitoring site (below; click image to play animation) showed that the ash from each of the two explosive eruptions reached heights of 18-20 km (black color enhancement), which was well into the stratosphere.

GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval values (click to play animation)

GOES-13 and Terra/Aqua MODIS volcanic ash height retrieval values (click to play animation)

Himawari-8 visible images

April 19th, 2015
Himiwari-8 AHI 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

Himiwari-8 AHI 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

0.5-km resolution Himawari-8 AHI 0.63 µm visible channel images from the SSEC RealEarth web map server (above; click image to play animation) revealed a number of interesting features from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Bering Sea during the 18 April – 19 April 2015 period, which included (1) a series of lee waves immediately west of the Kuril Islands (the chain of islands south of the Kamchatka Peninsula), (2) the cyclonic circulation that formed over the western Bering Sea off the Russian coast, along the far northern edge of a remnant frontal boundary, and (3) cloud streets in the central Bering Sea, streaming southward and southwestward from the sea ice across the open waters.

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images with an overlay of the19 April / 00 UTC surface analysis (below) showed the location of the remnant frontal boundary, which was an axis of convergence between strong northerly winds over the central Bering Sea (causing the cloud streets and heavy freezing spray which would be a concern for shipping activities in that area) and a ridge of high pressure southeast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

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

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