Atmospheric river events bring heavy precipitation to California

January 13th, 2017 |

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

MIMIC Total Precipatable Water product [click to play MP4 animation]

A series of 3 atmospheric river events brought heavy rainfall and heavy snowfall to much of California during the first 10 days of January 2017 (NWS San Francisco/Monterey | WeatherMatrix blog). Hourly images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (above; also available as a 33 Mbyte animated GIF) showed the second and third of these atmospheric river events during the 06 January11 January 2017 period, which were responsible for the bulk of the heavy precipitation; these 2 events appear to have drawn moisture northeastward from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)..

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared

Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A relatively cloud-free day on 13 January provided a good view of the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay regions. A comparison of Terra MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Near-Infrared  “Snow/Ice” (2.1 µm) images (above) showed that snow cover in the higher terrain of the Coastal Ranges and the Sierra Nevada appeared darker in the Snow/Ice band image (since snow and ice are strong absorbers of radiation at the 2.1 µm wavelength) — but water is an even stronger absorber, and therefore appeared even darker (which allowed the areas of flooding along the Sacramento River and its tributaries to be easily identified). A similar type of 1.6 µm Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” Band imagery will be available from the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series, beginning with GOES-16.

Better detail of the flooded areas of the Sacramento River and its tributaries was seen in 250-meter resolution false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) imagery from the MODIS Today site — water appears as darker shades of blue, while snow appears as shades of cyan (in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds, which appear as shades of white). In the corresponding MODIS true-color image, rivers and bays with high amounts of turbidity (tan shades) were evident; the offshore flow of sediment from a few rivers could also be seen.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

 

Blizzard impacts North Dakota and Minnesota

December 8th, 2016 |

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface weather symbols [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface weather symbols [click to play animation]

A major winter storm produced widespread blizzard conditions in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota (as well as far northern South Dakota) as low pressure deepened (3-hourly surface analyses) while moving from South Dakota across Minnesota (and eventually over Ontario and western Quebec) during the 05 December08 December 2016 period. Storm total snowfall amounts included 16.0 inches in Montana, 19.0 inches in North Dakota and 13.9 inches in Minnesota; peak wind gusts were as high as 63 knots (72 mph) in South Dakota, 56 knots (64 mph) in North Dakota and 37 knots (43 mph) in Minnesota (KBIS PNS | KFGF PNS | WPC storm summary). In North Dakota, nearly the entire portion of both Interstates 94 and 29 were closed. The large size of the storm could be seen on GOES-13 (GOES-East) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above).

A closer view using GOES-13 Water Vapor imagery with overlays of hourly reports of surface winds and wind gusts (below) showed that wind speeds remained strong enough to create travel-restricting blowing snow over eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota even into the early hours of 08 December (due to the continuing strong pressure gradient between the large low in Canada and the arctic high that was moving into Montana and Wyoming.

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface winds (yellow) and wind gusts in knots (red) [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface winds (yellow) and wind gusts in knots (red) [click to play animation]

In the wake of the storm on 09 December, a southeastward flow of cold arctic air (with surface air temperatures in the 0 to -15º F range) over the still-unfrozen water of Lake Sakakawea (which exhibited MODIS Sea Surface Temperature values as warm as 37.9º F) caused lake effect cloud bands to form and extend downwind of the lake — these cloud bands were very evident in a comparison of 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (below). In the false-color image, snow/ice appears as shades of cyan, in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds which appear as shades of white. The 1.6 µm snow/ice band used to create the MODIS false-color image will also be available with the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series (beginning with GOES-16).

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

With a fresh, deep snow cover and cold arctic air in place, strong nocturnal radiational cooling allowed North Dakota to experience its first -30º F low temperatures of the season on the morning of 10 December. Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature values at 0939 UTC or 3:39 am local time (below) were as cold as -39º F (darker violet color enhancement) near the sites that reported the -30º F low temperatures.

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

Heavy rainfall and high-elevation snowfall in Hawai’i

December 2nd, 2016 |

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with overlays of GFS model 500 hPa geopotential height [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with overlays of GFS model 500 hPa geopotential height [click to play animation]

6-hour interval GOES-15 (GOES-West) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images with overlays of GFS model 500 hPa geopotential height (above) showed middle to upper tropospheric moisture that was being drawn northwestward toward Hawai’i by the circulation of a closed low centered southwest of the state during the 01-02 December 2016 period.

A closer view using 15-minute interval GOES-15 Water Vapor images (below) showed 2 distinct pulses of moisture moving across the eastern portion of the island chain. Due to the prolonged flow of moisture and the variable terrain, Flood Warnings and Winter Storm Warnings were issued for the Big Island of Hawai’i (as shown using RealEarth).

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

Hourly images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (TPW) product (below) showed the large plume of moisture, which had its roots within the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Maximum TPW values in the vicinity of Hawai’i were in the 50-55 mm (2.0-2.2 inch) range. 24-hour rainfall amounts were as high as 6.27 inches on the island of Hawai’i and 3.67 inches on the island of Kauai.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product, with tropical surface analyses [click to play animation]

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product, with tropical surface analyses [click to play animation]

===== 03 December Update =====

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images (below) provided glimpses of the snow-covered peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (circled in red) on the Big Island of Hawai’i early in the day on 03 December.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports [click to play animation]

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]