Gravity waves near Guadalupe Island

March 15th, 2018 |

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left), Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm, left), Mid-level (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level (6.2 µm, right) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (above) revealed an interesting packet of gravity waves in the vicinity of Guadalupe Island (west of Baja California) on 15 March 2018. The mechanism forcing these waves was not entirely clear, making it a suitable candidate for the “What the heck is this?” blog category.

A similar animation of GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images (below) did show some smaller-scale waves on Visible imagery within the marine boundary layer stratocumulus cloud field, but they did not appear to exhibit a direct correlation with the higher-altitude waves seen in the Water Vapor imagery. Surface winds were from the northwest at 10-15 knots, as a dissipating cold front was stalled over the region.

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, left), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, right) images [click to play animation]

A larger-scale view of Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below) showed that these waves were located to the north of a jet streak axis — denoted by the sharp dry-to-moist gradient (yellow to blue enhancement) stretching from southwest to northeast as it moved over Baja California.

GOES-16 Mid-level (6.9 µm) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Mid-level (6.9 µm) Water Vapor images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images with overlays of upper-tropospheric atmospheric motion vectors and contours of upper-tropospheric divergence (below) indicated that Guadalupe Island was located within the “dry delta” signature often associated with a jet stream break — the inflection point between 2 strong jet streaks within a sharply-curved jet stream. Upper-tropospheric winds were from the west/northwest, with upper-tropospheric convergence seen over the region of the gravity waves.

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with water vapor wind vectors [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with atmospheric motion vectors [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of upper-tropospheric convergence [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of upper-tropospheric convergence [click to enlarge]

An early morning Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image with NAM80 contours of 250 hPa wind speed (below) showed the two 90-knot jet streaks on either side of the jet stream break — it could be that speed convergence due to rapidly decelerating air within the exit region of the western jet streak was a possible forcing mechanism of the gravity waves seen on the GOES-16 Water Vapor imagery.

Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image, with NAM80 contours of 250 hPa wind speed [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image, with NAM80 contours of 250 hPa wind speed [click to enlarge]

Interesting Bore Features in Lake Superior Stratus

July 10th, 2017 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) Imagery [click to play animated gif]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) Imagery [click to play animated gif]

GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational and are undergoing testing

High Dewpoints in mid-Summer in the Upper Midwest often leads to stratus and fog over Lake Superior. Such was the case on 10 July 2017, with dewpoints in the 50s and 60s F (GOES-16 Visible images with surface observations) and mid-lake water temperatures as cold as 40º F (buoy reports | MODIS SST values) — and very interesting waves were observed in the stratus deck. They had the appearance of Atmospheric Bores: parallel lines of clouds moving in one direction. It is unusual to have Bores moving in different directions at the same time, however.

One possible explanation for the differing motion of these undular bores could be internal reflection off the rugged northern and southern shorelines of Lake Superior.

The RTMA surface wind analyses at 17 UTC and 19 UTC, below, showed complex flow patterns over the lake — however, the surface wind flow did not always correspond well to the motion of the undular bores.

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) image, with RTMA surface winds [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) image, with RTMA surface winds [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) image, with RTMA surface winds [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) image, with RTMA surface winds [click to enlarge]

(Thanks to TJ Turnage, the SOO in Grand Rapids MI, for alerting us to this mesmerizing event).

Middle/upper-level deformation zone over the East Pacific Ocean?

May 23rd, 2017 |

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

An interesting linear feature appeared over the East Pacific Ocean on GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above) on 23 May 2017, which at first glance immediately nominated it for the “What the heck is this?” blog category. A contrail was ruled out, since it was not oriented along a common or busy flight route — so potential large-scale dynamic processes were briefly investigated. Since the linear feature was perpendicular to the busy California/Hawaii flight route, pilot reports of turbulence are plotted on the water vapor images; two reports of light turbulence at altitudes of 33,000-34,000 feet (at 0918 and 1109 UTC) appeared to be close enough to have possibly been related to the linear feature.

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of satellite wind derived upper-level divergence [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with contours of satellite wind derived Upper-Level Divergence [click to enlarge]

Satellite atmospheric motion vector (AMV) derived products such as Upper-Level Divergence (above) calculated at 3-hour intervals (source) revealed an area of divergence focused near the area of the linear satellite image feature — around 30º N, 140º W, at the center of the images — which reached its peak intensity at 12 UTC; this suggested that the feature may have formed along the axis of the sharp deformation zone between two upper-level lows over the East Pacific Ocean (mid/upper level winds | 200 hPa Vorticity product).

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor (6.5 µm, top; 7.0 µm, middle; 7.5 µm, bottom) images [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor (6.5 µm, top; 7.0 µm, middle; 7.5 µm, bottom) images [click to enlarge]

Unfortunately, this region was not within the view of Himawari-8 or GOES-16 (each of which provide 2-km resolution water vapor imagery at 3 atmospheric levels). However, the GOES-15 sounder instrument has 3 similar water vapor bands (above) — albeit at a more coarse 10-km spatial resolution at satellite sub-point — which showed the linear “deformation axis cloud signature” at all 3 levels of the atmosphere. The GOES-15 sounder water vapor weighting functions for a “typical” US Standard Atmosphere are shown below.

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor band weighting functions [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 sounder Water Vapor band weighting functions [click to enlarge]

Middle and upper-atmospheric wave structures in the vicinity of a subtropical jet stream

April 4th, 2016 |

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with ECMWF model maximum wind isotachs [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with ECMWF model maximum wind isotachs [click to enlarge]

A strong (120-knot) subtropical jet stream was moving eastward across the Gulf of Mexico during the 03 April – 04 April 2016 period. During the overnight hours between these 2 days, a Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) image at 0753 UTC (above) revealed a large packet of arc-shaped mesospheric airglow waves south of the axis of the jet stream (as indicated by isotachs of the maximum tropospheric wind speed from the ECMWF model). Note how there were no cloud features which corresponded to these waves in the 0753 UTC VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) image; since the Moon was in the waning Gibbous phase (at 13% of Full), there was very little lunar illumination of cloud features, so airglow — essentially the “night glow” emitted from a variety of high-altitude (80-105 km) gases (primarily the sodium layer) near the mesopause — was allowing these high-altitude waves to be detected using the sensitive Day/Night Band (reference: “Suomi satellite brings to light a unique frontier of nighttime environmental sensing capabilities”).

During the subsequent daytime hours on 04 April, more interesting (tropospheric) waves were seen in the vicinity of this subtropical jet stream — small packets of waves that were propagating westward, against the ambient flow –one over Florida/Georgia/South Carolina, and another over South Texas. Unfortunately, these features fall into the “What the heck is this?” blog category, so no coherent explanation of them can be offered at this time.

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with ECMWF model maximum wind isotachs [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with ECMWF model maximum wind isotachs [click to play animation]

An interesting question from Shea Gibson: