Wildfires in Oregon

September 23rd, 2009 |
GOES-11/GOES-12 water vapor composite image + GFS 500 hPa height

GOES-11/GOES-12 water vapor composite image + GFS 500 hPa height

An anomalous ridge of high pressure developed across western North America on 23 September 2009, bringing hot and dry conditions to parts of the Pacific Northwest states — high temperatures at many locations in Oregon were in the 90s and low 100s F for two consecutive days. The effect of this large ridge could be seen quite well on an AWIPS composite image of the GOES-11 and GOES-12 water vapor channels (above). Stu Ostro at The Weather Channel pointed out that the 5950 meter geopotential height at Spokane, Washington at 00 UTC on 23 September is the record highest value for so far north in the US so late in the season (since the beginning of the NCEP reanalysis dataset, which goes back though 1948).

A pair of large wildfires were burning in southwestern Oregon — the “hot spots” from these 2 fires could be seen on MODIS 3.7 µm and GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (below), located to the east of Roseburg (station identifier KRBG). The location and areal coverage of these wildfire hot spots was better depicted on the 1-km resolution MODIS image, compared to the 4-km resolution GOES-11 image; in addition, the leading edge of the marine fog/stratus that was moving inland was more accurately shown on the higher-resolution MODIS imagery.

MODIS 3.7 µm + GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

MODIS 3.7 µm + GOES-11 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

250-meter resolution MODIS true color and false color images from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) show even better details of the smoke plumes and the marine fog/stratus. There was also evidence of  some smoke remaining in a few of the valleys near the fire activity. The MODIS false color image also displays the larger active fire “hot spots” as pink-colored features at the source of the smoke plumes.

MODIS true color and false color images

MODIS true color and false color images

GOES-12 visible images

GOES-12 (GOES East) visible images

The large plumes of smoke from these Oregon fires could be seen moving northward across western Oregon and western Washington, even drifting as far to the north as southern British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. Note that the leading (northern) edge of the smoke plume was easier to identify on GOES-12 (GOES East) visible imagery (above) compared to GOES-11 (GOES West) visible imagery (below) — this is a result of the more favorable forward scattering geometry with the GOES-12 satellite. However, the more direct viewing angle of GOES-11 made it easier to see the marine fog/stratus that was moving inland along coastal sections of Washington, Oregon, and California.

GOES-11 visible images

GOES-11 (GOES West) visible images

Dust storm over eastern Australia

September 23rd, 2009 |

MTSAT-1R visible images

MTSAT-1R visible images

One of the worst dust storms in the past 70 years swept across a large part of eastern Australia on 22 September23 September 2009 (Daily Mail Online photos). A sequence of MTSAT-1R visible images (above) showed the progression of the large dust cloud as it moved eastward during the daylight hours. Note the appearance of “lee waves” along the top of the dust cloud, as the strong winds interacted with the high terrain of the Great Dividing Range. An undular bore could also be seen forming out ahead of the cold front, over the offshore waters of the South Pacific Ocean.

The surface meteorogram for Brisbane, Australia (station identifier YBBN) is shown below; note that the surface visibility dropped to 0.2 km (0.1 mile) as the cold front passed, and following the frontal passage the dew point dropped from +16º C (61º F) to -16º C (+3º F).

Brisbane, Australia surface meteorogram

Brisbane, Australia surface meteorogram

A larger-scale view of the dust cloud feature could be seen using MODIS true color imagery from the NASA MODIS Rapid Response site (below, viewed using Google Maps). See also the NASA  MODIS Image of the Day.

MODIS true color image

MODIS true color image