High cloud shadow over eastern Iowa

June 18th, 2018 |

It’s always good to get a question that lends itself well to the “What the heck is this?” blog category. The answer, as is often the case, relies on an examination of imagery from a variety of GOES-16 ABI bands.  To begin, note the darker feature seen on 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 “Blue” Visible (0.47 µm), “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) images (below), which was moving northeastward across eastern Iowa and passing just to the west of Waterloo (KALO) on the morning of 18 June 2018.

GOES-16 "Blue" Visible (0.47 µm), "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm) images

GOES-16 “Blue” Visible (0.47 µm, left), “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, center) and Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm, right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

To explore the initial hypothesis that this might be a shadow from a higher-altitude cloud feature, GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images were examined (below), which did indeed reveal a small cloud element aloft that was drifting in the same direction as the darker feature seen above.

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm, left), Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm, center) and Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm, right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

Finally, a comparison of GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (below) showed that this small (and likely thin) high-altitude cloud exhibited no signature in the Shortwave Infrared, but did exhibit a 10.3 µm brightness temperature as cold as -20ºC (cyan enhancement) at times.

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm, left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, right) images [click to play animation | MP4]

12 UTC rawinsonde data from Davenport, Iowa (below) showed southwesterly winds and an air temperature just below -20ºC at an altitude of around 9.6 km.

12 UTC rawinsonde data from Davenport, Iowa [click to enlarge]

12 UTC rawinsonde data from Davenport, Iowa [click to enlarge]

Thanks to Andrew Ansorge (NWS DMX) and Rich Mamrosh (NWS GRB) for alerting us to this interesting feature!

Upwind-propagating bore over southern Lake Michigan

June 1st, 2018 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) Visible Imagery at 1-minute intervals from 1337 to 1658 UTC on 1 June 2018 (Click to play mp4 animation)

GOES-16 Visible Imagery on 1 June revealed an interesting feature behind a lake-enhanced cold front that swept south into Indiana and Illinois (another aspect of this feature is discussed here). Atmospheric waves developed in the cloud layer over the south shore of Lake Michigan and propagated upwind towards Chicago. The mp4 animation above (Click here for a full-res very large animated gif) shows 1-minute imagery from the western default GOES-16 Mesoscale sector. (At 1659 UTC, that sector was repositioned to the west to monitor convection in the northern Plain States).

CONUS-scale imagery was able to sample the evolution of this system at 5-minute intervals, as shown below (Click here for an animation without the surface observations).

There is a considerable thermal gradient between the lake surface and the land over Indiana and Illinois. This Land Surface Baseline Product shows surface temperatures in the low 40s over the Lake and surface temperatures in the mid-80s over northwest Indiana. This strong thermal gradient likely influenced the development of these unusual waves. An aircraft sounding from 1535 UTC (here, courtesy TJ Turnage) shows the very strong inversion that was also important in the evolution of the waves.

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) Visible Imagery at 5-minute intervals from 1102 to 1917 UTC on 1 June 2018, along with hourly surface plots (Click to play animated gif)

(Thanks to TJ Turnage, NWS GRR for alerting us to this event!)

Added, 5 June:  Clark Evans, UW-Milwaukee, hypothesizes that the waves may have been forced by the (relatively) tall dunes in Indiana along the south shore of Lake Michigan.   Those dunes may have been tall enough to block the flow under a very sharp inversion.

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).