Snowpack in the Sierras as seen by Terra and Aqua

November 30th, 2014
AquaTerra_TrueColor_November_2007_2014

Terra or Aqua True-Color Images for dates in late November, 2007-2014 (Exact dates in small caption top center of images) (click to play animation)

MODIS True-Color imagery at SSEC‘s MODIS Today website includes daily data starting in late 2007. These images can provide a brief climatology for surface/atmospheric conditions. The animation above shows snowpack over the Sierras and the intermountain west for one day (either the 24th or 29th) in late November from 2007 through 2014. Snowcover was abundant in 2010 (Click here for the November 2010 San Francisco Climatograph), but most other Novembers show scant snowpack in the Sierras. The snowpack in 2014 is less extensive than in 2013 or 2012, but still more than in 2007.

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AquaTerra_TrueColor_November_2007_2014

Terra or Aqua True-Color Images for dates in late November, 2001-2014 (click to play animation)

The MODIS Direct Broadcast website at CIMSS/SSEC also has true-color imagery, dating back to 2001. The animation above shows the Southwest US sectors that are available, with an image each year near the end of November. Again, late November 2010 is the snowiest; late 2014 is comparable to many years after 2006. The year with the least snowcover in late November is 2007.

Major lake effect snow event downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario

November 18th, 2014
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

Cold arctic air (surface air temperatures in the upper teens to lower 20s F) flowing across the still-warm waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (sea surface temperature values as warm as the middle to upper 40s F) were 2 ingredients that helped create a major lake effect snowfall event on 18 November 2014 (VIIRS visible image with surface analysis). Storm total snowfall amounts were as high as 65 inches in Erie County, New York (NWS Buffalo Public Information Statement). GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed the large and well defined single-band lake effect cloud features that developed over each of the lakes. The band over Lake Erie was nearly stationary for several hours, producing snowfall rates as high as 4 inches per hour at some locations in the Southtowns of Buffalo. The stationary behavior (and very sharp northern edge, due to a “locked thermal convergence zone“) of the Lake Erie snow band was quite evident on composite radar reflectivity (below; click image to play animation; images courtesy of the College of DuPage). The formation and growth of this band benefited from a long fetch of southwesterly winds oriented along the axis of Lake Erie.  Isolated negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were observed at 16:45 and 22:15 UTC, implying the presence of embedded pockets of thundersnow.

Composite radar reflectivity (click to play animation)

Composite radar reflectivity (click to play animation)

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 18:17 UTC or 1:17 pm local time is shown below. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -37º C (green color enhancement), which corresponded to a pressure of 437 hPa (or an altitude around 6 km) on the 12 UTC Buffalo NY rawinsonde report.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Comparisons of Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images covering the Lake Erie/Lake Ontario region along with a high-resolution view centered on Buffalo NY are shown below.

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images

A 15-meter resolution Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible channel image from the SSEC RealEarth web map server (below) showed great detail to the Lake Ontario snow band as it was moving inland over the Watertown NY area at 15:45 UTC.

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image

Landsat-8 0.59 µm panochromatic visible image

Looking back to the preceding nighttime hours, a toggle between Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and 11.45-3.74 µm IR brightness temperature difference “Fog/stratus product” images at 06:54 UTC or 1:54 am local time (below) showed that the lake effect bands were already well-developed, with minimum 11.45 µm IR brightness temperatures of -30º C and colder (yellow color enhancement). Even with minimal lunar illumination — the Moon was in the Waning Crescent phase, at only 7% of full — the lake effect cloud bands features could still be seen on the Day/Night Band image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, 11.45 µm IR, and “Fog/stratus product” images

For a more in-depth discussion of this lake effect snow event, watch the VISIT Satellite Chat session.

“River-effect” snow in South Dakota

November 13th, 2014
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) revealed the presence of numerous cloud streamers originating over the Lake Oahe and Lake Sharpe reservoirs along the Missouri River in South Dakota on 13 November 2014. At times these cloud bands were producing snow that was reducing surface visibility to 4 miles at Pierre (KPIR) and 5 miles at Chamberlain (K9V9).

Aqua MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image, False-color RGB image, and Sea Surface Temperature product at 19:48 UTC

Aqua MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image, False-color RGB image, and Sea Surface Temperature product at 19:48 UTC

Comparisons of visible channel and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from Aqua MODIS (above) and Suomi NPP VIIRS (below) demonstrated the value of RGB products to more easily identify such supercooled water droplet cloud features (which appear as varying shades of white) in areas that have underlying snow cover (which appears as varying shades of red). In addition, the MODIS Sea Surface Temperature (SST) product (above) showed that SST values were in the 40-50º F range (cyan color enhancement) in those Missouri River reservoirs, making them significantly warmer than the cold arctic air mass that had overspread the region.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image and False-color RGB image at 19:51 UTC

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image and False-color RGB image at 19:51 UTC

October snowfall on the Big Island of Hawai’i

October 14th, 2014
GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS images of GOES-15 (GOES-West) 6.5 µm water vapor channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed an upper-level low that moved from east to west over the Hawaiian Islands during the 13 October – 14 October 2014 period. This low forced the development of widespread showers and thunderstorms, especially over the Big Island of Hawai’i — and even produced some snowfall in the highest elevations around the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Some excerpts from Area Forecast Discussions issued by the National Weather Service at Honolulu on 13 October:

FXHW60 PHFO 131350
AFDHFO

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
400 AM HST MON OCT 13 2014
[…]
FORECAST MODELS HAVE BEEN CONSISTENTLY CALLING FOR 500 MB TEMPERATURES BETWEEN -12 AND -13C WITHIN THE CORE OF THE COMPACT UPPER LOW. THIS IS EXCEPTIONALLY COLD FOR OCTOBER
[…]
FORECAST MODELS SHOW THAT THIS FEATURE WILL HOLD AS IT MOVES OVER THE BIG ISLAND LATER TODAY INTO TONIGHT…LIKELY PRODUCING ACCUMULATING SNOW OVER THE SUMMITS ABOVE 12000 FT. AS A RESULT…A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY HAS BEEN ISSUED.
[…]

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FXHW60 PHFO 140152
AFDHFO

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
330 PM HST MON OCT 13 2014
[…]
THE SUMMITS OF THE BIG ISLAND HAVE BEGUN TO REPORT SNOWFALL ACCUMULATION…AND THIS WILL CONTINUE WITH A COUPLE OF INCHES POSSIBLE OVERNIGHT.
[…]

While examining a nighttime (11:21 UTC or 1:21 am local time) comparison of AWIPS II images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) and 11.45 µm IR channel data covering Tropical Storm Ana (below), the main feature of interest was the inner core of cloud-top IR brightness temperatures as cold as -86º C (yellow color enhancement) associated with Ana — however, equally interesting was the appearance of a pair of bright white features in the middle of the Big Island on the DNB image (which highlighted the areas of snow cover that remained at the higher elevations).

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

A closer view comparing the VIIRS DNB and IR images centered over the Big Island (below) seemed to suggest that the 2 patches of bright snow cover (well-illuminated by a nearly Full Moon) were located along the western slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. A similar comparison of the DNB image and high-resolution topography can be seen here.

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

An animation of GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images during the following daylight hours of 14 October (below; click image to play animation) revealed the gradual melting of the 2 patches of high-elevation snow cover as temperatures rose from around freezing into the 50s F near the summits (Cooperative observations).

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)