Using satellite imagery to help diagnose areas of aircraft icing potential

October 17th, 2008 |
GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

AWIPS images of the GOES-12 10.7 µm “IR window” channel (above) showed extensive cloudiness associated with a shortwave trough that was moving eastward across the Upper Midwest region during the morning hours on 17 October 2008. IR cloud top brightness temperatures of -20º to -40º C (blue to green colors) corresponded to areas of light precipitation (radar mosaic). Also shown on the IR imagery were  aircraft Icing AIRMET advisories (outlined in red) that were issued at 09:00 UTC and 14:00 UTC –  the 14:00 UTC AIRMET was forecasting moderate icing between the freezing level (which was between 5,000 and 10,000 feet) and 20,000 feet. In fact, there were a number of aircraft pilot reports of icing (plotted in yellow) within the boundaries of these Icing AIRMETs.

A closer view using AWIPS images of the MODIS visible channel, 11.0 µm “IR window” channel, Cloud Top Temperature (CTT) product, and Cloud Phase product at 17:29 UTC (below) indicated that much of the cloud shield along the trailing (western) edge of the shortwave over Minnesota and Iowa exhibited cloud top temperatures that were below freezing (generally in the -5 to -12º C range), but the MODIS Cloud Phase product designated those trailing edge clouds as “Water droplet” clouds (blue enhancement). Within this area of supercooled water droplet clouds were several pilot reports of icing at the 8000-foot altitude  across southern Minnesota and western/central Iowa.

MODIS visible + IR window + cloud top temperature + cloud phase

MODIS visible + IR window + Cloud Top Temperature + Cloud Phase

A comparison of AWIPS images of the MODIS Cloud Phase product and the GOES-12 sounder Cloud Top Height product (below) showed that these pilot reports of icing at the 8000 foot level were well below the tops of the clouds, which were generally in the 13,000-15,000 foot range (green colors on the Cloud Top Height product).

MODIS Cloud Phase product + GOES Sounder Cloud Top Height product

MODIS Cloud Phase product + GOES-12 sounder Cloud Top Height product