Fire activity in Canada

June 30th, 2008 |

GOES-11 visible + shortwave IR images (Animated GIF)

Wildfire activity began to increase across the northern portions of Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada on 30 June 2008. GOES-11 visible and 3.9 µm “shortwave IR” images (above) showed a number of thick smoke plumes (lighter gray features on the visible images) drifting southeastward from a large cluster of active fire “hot spots” (darker black pixels on the IR images). GOES-11 was placed into Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) during the afternoon hours, so images near the end of the animation were available at 5-7 minute intervals.

The largest fire was located between Pelican Narrows and Sandy Bay in Saskatchewan, as seen in an AVHRR false color image (below, viewed using Google Earth). A close-up view reveals that the fire had actually jumped the only road that was in that area (the seasonal road which connects Sandy Bay and Pelican Narrows). The GOES-11 shortwave IR brightness temperatures associated with this particular fire were as high as 341º K (68º C, 158º F), which is the saturation temperature of the 3.9 µm detectors on the GOES-11 satellite. Note that some small pyrocumulus clouds could be seen developing over this large and very hot fire on the GOES-11 visible imagery (above) as well as on the AVHRR false color image (below).
AVHRR false color image (Google Earth)

A closer view of the largest fire using AWIPS images of the 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7 µm and the 4-km resolution GOES-12 3.9 µm IR channels (below) shows the advantage of higher spatial resolution for displaying the shape and coverage of not only the largest fire cluster (located near the center of the image), but also the smaller fires in outlying areas. Many of the pixels were so hot that the IR brightness temperatures exceeded the 54.5º C upper threshold for AWIPS display, and showed up as black pixels (registered as “NO DATA“) on the imagery. The smoke from this fire was restricting surface visibility to 1 mile at Flin Flon (CYFO) and 3 miles at The Pas (CYQD) in Manitoba, even though those 2 sites were not in the direct path of the thickest portion of the smoke plume.

MODIS + GOES-11 shortwave IR images (Animated GIF)

Some clues as to the locations of the hottest portion of the fire — which happened to be located within the eastern half of the active fire area, where the black “NO DATA” pixels were seen on the MODIS shortwave IR image — could be found by examining other MODIS images and products: note the darker black pixels on the 11.0 µm “IR Window” channel, the brighter white pixels on the 2.1 µm near-IR “Snow/Ice” channel, and the darker red pixels on the Land Surface Temperature (LST) product (below). AWIPS cursor sampling indicated that the hottest pixel on the IR Window image was 52º C (126º F), while the hottest pixel on the LST image was significantly warmer at 145º F (63º C).

MODIS IR + snow/ice + LST images (Animated GIF)

Eastern Pacific: Tropical Storms Boris and Cristina

June 30th, 2008 |

AMSU image (Tropical Storm Boris)

While the Atlantic Ocean tropical cyclone season has been relatively quiet thus far, the Eastern Pacific Ocean was showing some signs of activity in late June 2008. Products from the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones site such as AMSU brightness temperature (above) and Satellite Consensus (SATCON) tropical cyclone intensity estimates (below) were useful to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, as noted in their Tropical Storm Boris discussion from 29 June 2008:

TROPICAL STORM BORIS DISCUSSION NUMBER 13
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL

800 PM PDT SUN JUN 29 2008

THE RAGGED EYE VISIBLE EARLIER HAS BEEN OBSCURED BY NEW CONVECTION NEAR THE CENTER…ALTHOUGH EXCELLENT BANDING ALOFT IS APPARENT IN AN AMSU PASS AT 0045 UTC. THE ADVISORY INTENSITY OF 60 KT IS A BLEND OF SUBJECTIVE DVORAK ESTIMATES OF 55 KT FROM TAFB AND SAB…A CIMSS ADT OF 65 KT…AND A CIMSS AMSU ESTIMATE OF 66 KT.


CIMSS Satellite Consensus (Tropical Storm Boris)

Not far to the west of Boris, Tropical Storm Cristina was also present over the Eastern Pacific Ocean. ASCAT satellite wind vectors were helpful in verifying the intensity of Cristina, as seen in on GOES-11 visible and IR imagery with ASCAT data superimposed (below).

GOES-11 visible image + ASCAT winds

GOES-11 IR images + ASCAT winds (Animated GIF)

A 30 June 2008 National Hurricane Center discussion for Tropical Storm Cristina also noted

TROPICAL STORM CRISTINA DISCUSSION NUMBER 11
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL

200 AM PDT MON JUN 30 2008

THE CLOUD PATTERN ASSOCIATED WITH CRISTINA HAS BECOME LESS ORGANIZED OVER THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS. THERE IS A RATHER SHARP EDGE TO THE HIGH CLOUD MASS OVER THE EASTERN SIDE OF THE SYSTEM…INDICATIVE OF EASTERLY VERTICAL SHEAR. THIS SHEAR IS AT LEAST PARTIALLY DUE TO THE UPPER-LEVEL OUTFLOW FROM TROPICAL STORM BORIS LOCATED NOT FAR TO CRISTINA’S EAST.

This sharp eastern cloud edge was quite evident on GOES-11 IR imagery (below), which also displays the CIMSS wind shear product.

GOES-11 IR images + wind shear (Animated GIF)

One factor influencing the lack of organized tropical storm activity in the Atlantic so far this season may have been the persistent Saharan Air Layer and airborne African dust that was frequently observed over the tropical Atlantic basin during the month of June 2008 — note the presence of significantly lower MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (TPW) values during the 27-30 June 2008 period (below) within the 10-20º N latitude band over the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the much higher TPW values over tropical East Pacific where Tropical Storms Boris and Cristina were seen. One impact of such a high amount of African dust may be the cooler than normal Sea Surface Temperatures across the tropical Atlantic, which would be a negative factor for tropical cyclone formation.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (Animated GIF)

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (Animated GIF)