The first -40º F or colder temperatures of the season (in the Lower 48 States)

January 13th, 2009 |
GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

A strong “Alberta Clipper” system ushered in some of the coldest air of the 2008/2009 winter season on 12 January 2009 — in fact, it was so cold that AWIPS images of the GOES-12 10.7 µm IR channel data (above) showed that surface brightness temperatures as cold as -20º to -40º C (cyan to green color enhancement) were surging southward from south-central Canada into the north-central US in the wake of the clipper.

A closer view using GOES-12 IR imagery with a different color enhancement (below) displayed a large area of surface IR brightness temperatures colder than -40º C (violet colors) across much of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota during the pre-dawn hours of 13 January. The coldest GOES-12 IR brightness temperature values seen were -47º C (-53º F) at 13 UTC (7 AM local time) just to the north of Waskish (station identifier KVWU) in northeastern Minnesota.

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

The 1-km resolution MODIS 11.0 µm IR image at 08:57 UTC (3:57 AM local time) on 13 January (below) showed similar values of cold IR brightness temperatures, with a minimum of -48º C (-54º F). The coldest surface air temperature reported that morning was -42º C (-44º F) by the Cooperative Observer at Embarrass in northeastern Minnesota, with lows of -41º C (-42º F) at Babbit, Bigfork, Effie, and International Falls. Prior to this date, the coldest temperature recorded in the Lower 48 states this 2008/2009 winter season was -39º C (-38º F) at Simpson, Montana on 21 December 2008.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image

— 15 January Update —

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

The coldest temperature recorded in the Lower 48 states during this particular cold outbreak was -44º C (-48º F) at Babbitt in northern Minnesota on 14 January. On the morning of 15 January, the core of the coldest air in the north-central US was found farther to the west, from central North Dakota into northeastern South Dakota: Garrison, North Dakota had a minimum temperature of -44º C (-47º F), Bismarck, North Dakota dropped to -42º C (-44º F) (only 1 degree F shy of their all-time record low), and Aberdeen, South Dakota recorded a low of -41º C (-42º F) (which was only 4 degrees F shy of their all-time record low). However, GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images (above) displayed surface IR brightness temperatures as cold as -47º C (-53º F) in North Dakota.

A comparison of 1-km resolution MODIS and 4-km resolution GOES-12 surface IR brightness temperatures at around 08:45 UTC or 3:45 AM local time (below) displayed very similar minimum values of -48º C (-54º F) and -47º C (-53º F), respectively.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR + GOES_12 10.7 µm IR images

MODIS 11.0 µm IR + GOES-12 10.7 µm IR images

With such a cold and dry air mass in place over the north, the GOES-12 6.5 µm “water vapor channel” imagery (below) was able to display a signature of the large surface temperature contrast between the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding colder land surfaces. GOES-12 water vapor weighting functions calculated using the Detroit MI rawinsonde data indicated that many of the GOES imager and sounder water vapor channels were peaking at unusually-low altitudes.

GOES-12 6.5 µm water vapor images

GOES-12 6.5 µm water vapor images

MODIS true color imagery showed that ice formation was rapidly increasing over far western and southern Lake Michigan with the presence of the cold air over the Great Lakes region.

— 16 January Update —

The cold air continued to move eastward, and on the morning of 16 January had settled over the northeastern US.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CARIBOU ME
0955 AM EST FRI JAN 16 2009

**POTENTIAL STATEWIDE RECORD MINIMUM TEMPERATURE**

AT 0730 AM EST THIS MORNING A USGS GAGE AT BIG BLACK RIVER RECORDED A LOW TEMPERATURE OF -50F. THIS EXCEEDS THE CURRENT STATEWIDE RECORD LOW TEMPERATURE OF -48F SET ON JANUARY 19TH…1925 AT VAN BUREN. THIS REPORT IS CONSIDERED UNOFFICIAL UNTIL A REVIEW OF THE EQUIPMENT AND DATA BY THE STATE CLIMATE EXTREMES COMMITTEE AS TO THE VALIDITY OF THIS REPORT. IF THE COMMITTEE ASCERTAINS THAT THIS IS INDEED A VALID REPORT…A SEPARATE PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT WILL BE ISSUED AT THAT TIME.

Several hours prior to this, 1-km resolution NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR imagery (below) showed cold air drainage into the valleys of northern Maine, with surface IR brightness temperatures as cold as -45.4º C (-49.7º F) at 06:41 UTC (02:41 AM local time). The low that morning of -38º C (-37º F) at Caribou, Maine was the coldest temperature recorded at that location for the entire month of January.

NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR image

NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR image

Sea Surface Temperatures: MODIS vs model

January 8th, 2009 |
MODIS Sea Surface Temperature + RTG-SST model analysis

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature + RTG-SST model analysis

AWIPS images of the MODIS Sea Surface Temperature (SST) product at 16:22 UTC on 08 January 2009 and the closest corresponding RTG-SST model analysis at 00:00 UTC on 09 January (above) demonstrated some important advantages of the 1-km resolution MODIS satellite imagery for the analysis of small-scale water temperature details. The two obvious warm water features on the MODIS image were (1) a portion of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, and (2) the axis of the Gulf Stream over the far western Atlantic Ocean (off the Southeast US coast). While the RTG-SST model analysis did a good job with the placement of the position of the axis of the Loop Current, it was unable to capture many of the subtle water temperature structures and eddies that were present. In particular, note that the MODIS SST image displayed water temperatures that were slightly cooler (75-76º F) in the core of the Loop Current plume, which was surrounded by warmer SST values of 77-78ºF. The RTG-SST model analysis placed the “bulls-eye” of the warmest SST values just southwest of Buoy 42054, where the MODIS image indicated that the pocket of slightly cooler SST values were located.

The RTG-SST model analysis also appeared to have placed the axis of the Gulf Stream a bit far to the east.

California fog

January 8th, 2009 |
4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

AWIPS images of the 4-km resolution GOES-11 fog/stratus product and the 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product (above) showed widespread fog and stratus clouds in the central valleys of California as well as over the adjacent offshore waters of the Pacific Ocean on 08 January 2009. With the finer spatial resolution of the MODIS imagery, you can see several narrow fingers of fog that extended eastward into the smaller river valleys along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Range — as well as the presence of several ship tracks in the stratus cloud deck over the ocean.

4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

A closer view of the Sacramento Valley region (above) and the San Joaquin Valley region (below) reveals the intricate structure along the eastern edges of the fog and stratus features in those areas. The superior spatial resolution of the MODIS imagery can be very important to a variety of weather analysis and forecasting tasks: for example, trying to determine exactly which portions of Interstate 5 might have traffic slow-downs due to fog.

4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

4-km resolution GOES-11 and 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product

Of pineapples and fire hoses

January 8th, 2009 |
GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel images

AWIPS images of the GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel (above) showed a very long and well-defined plume of moisture streaming northeastward from just north of the Hawaiian Islands to the Pacific Northwest on 07 January08 January 2009. The National Weather Service forecast office in Seattle, Washington said it best:

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
340 PM PST WED JAN 7 2009

.SHORT TERM…HEAVY RAIN AND FLOODING EVENT IS UNDERWAY. A LONG PLUME OF MOISTURE EMANATING FROM WEST OF HAWAII IS CURRENTLY POINTED AT SW WA/NW ORE. THE AXIS OF THE MOISTURE PLUME HAS BEEN SLOWLY SAGGING SOUTH TODAY…THOUGH EVERYWHERE HAS GOTTEN AT LEAST SOME AMOUNT OF RAIN. SOME PEOPLE REFER TO THIS PATTERN AS THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS…WHILE OTHERS CALL IT A METEOROLOGICAL FIRE HOSE. BOTH TERMS APPLY HERE. 850-700 MB WIND FLOW IS MORE WESTERLY THAN WITH MOST HEAVY RAIN EVENTS (AS OPPOSED TO SOUTHWESTERLY)…SO RAIN IS FOCUSING A BIT HARDER THAN USUAL ON RIVERS WITH HEADWATERS IN THE CASCADES. THIS FLOODING EVENT COULD HAVE MANY PARALLELS TO THE NOVEMBER 2006 EVENT.


Blended Total Precipitable Water product

Blended Total Precipitable Water product

AWIPS images of both the CIRA Blended Total Precipitable Water product (above) and the CIMSS  MIMIC Total Trecipitable Water product (below) showed that TPW values were generally in the 30-40 mm (1.2-1.6 inches) range within this moisture plume. With the larger areal coverage of the CIMSS MIMIC TPW product display, you can get a better feel for the fact that this moisture plume had connections to the rich moisture contained within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) as it began to surge northeastward on 06 January.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product

Heavy rainfall amounts included 9.30 inches at June Lake in Oregon and 9.05 inches at Wickersham in Washington — and as a result, there were widespread reports of flooding, mudslides, and avalanches as this plume of moisture moved inland and interacted with the topography of the region (shown below). In addition, strong winds were reported in parts of the region (with a wind gust of 130 mph at the top of Magic Mile Ski Lift in Timberline, Oregon).

AWIPS-2 topography image

AWIPS-2 topography image