Using MODIS imagery to further assess properties of a large California wildfire

July 27th, 2010
MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR and 2.1 µm near-IR "snow/ice" channel images

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR and 2.1 µm near-IR "snow/ice" channel images

A large 16,000 acre wildfire was burning in the Bull Creek Run area near Kernville in central California on 27 July 2010. On a comparison of AWIPS images of the 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel and the corresponding MODIS 2.1 µm near-IR “smow/ice” channel (above), the shortwave IR image displayed a large cluster of fire hot spots (dark black pixels) along the Kern / Tulare county line (northeast of Bakersfield KBFL and southeast of Porterville KPTV). Interrogation of this cluster of hot pixels with AWIPS cursor sampling activated would simply display “NO DATA” (since the IR brightness temperatures of the hot fire pixels exceeded that of the maximum IR threshold on AWIPS), which would not allow proper identification of the location of the hottest pixels denoting the most intense areas of fire activity. However, due to the thermal sensitivity of the 2.1 µm near-IR “snow/ice” channel, that particular image did display 3 distinct areas of brighter white pixels which helped to better highlight the location of the hottest, most intense fire activity at that time.

This fire was producing a large smoke plume, but at mid-day the boundary of the smoke plume was difficult to identify on 0.65 µm MODIS visible channel imagery due to the high albedo of the ground surface below. However, the MODIS 1.3 µm “cirrus detection” channel image (below) was helpful in locating the areal coverage of the smoke — this channel is sensitive to airborne particles that are efficient scatterers of light (such as smoke, dust, haze, volcanic ash, etc). By the way, the CIMSS Satellite Blog staff feels that the 1109 knot (1275 mph) wind barb at San Liuis Obispo KSPB is likely erroneous.

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 1.3 µm "cirus detection" channel images

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 1.3 µm "cirus detection" channel images

A comparison of 250-meter resolution MODIS true color (created using bands 1/4/3) and false color (created using bands 7/2/1) Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) clearly showed the thick smoke plume moving northward, along with the location of the fire hot spots (brighter pink pixels) at the far southern end of the smoke plume.

MODIS true color (bands 4/3/1) and false color (bands 7/2/1) RGB images

MODIS true color (bands 4/3/1) and false color (bands 7/2/1) RGB images

The 4th EF-3 tornado on record in Montana (and the deadliest since 1923)

July 26th, 2010
GOES-11 (GOES-West) / GOES-15 / GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-11 (GOES-West)/ GOES-15 / GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR images

Severe thunderstorms propagated southeastward across far northeastern Montana late in the day on 26 July 2010. McIDAS images of GOES-11 (GOES-West), GOES-15, and GOES-13 (GOES-East) 10.7 µm IR data (above; each image set is displayed in the naive projection of the respective satellite) showed that a subtle “enhanced-v” storm top signature first began to appear on GOES-13 imagery around 23:25 UTC, with this signature becoming more apparent by 23:45 UTC on all 3 satellite IR images. In addition, a well-defined cold/warm thermal couplet (with an IR brightness temperature difference of 11-14º C) was displayed on all three satellite IR images around 01:00 UTC. Note that more frequent images were available from GOES-11 and GOES-13, since both of those operational satellites had been placed into Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode. GOES-15 is providing images as part of its Post Launch Testing.

According to the SPC Storm Reports, these storms produced hail as large as 4.0 inches in diameter, and produced a tornado that was responsible for EF-3 damage and 2 fatalities. This was only the 4th EF3 damage producing tornado on record in Montana, and the deadliest tornado in that state since 1923.

The GOES-15 satellite (positioned at 89.5º West longitude) had the most direct view of the storm — and an animation of 0.63 µm visible channel images (below) showing some interesting cloud top structure, including several overshooting tops as well as a well-defined anvil plume later in the animation sequence.

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible images

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible images

The GOES-11 (GOES-West) satellite (positioned at 135º West longitude) offered a more oblique view of the severe thunderstorms (below). Viewing the storms from such a high western angle, one can see the appearance of low-level inflow feeder band clouds as the thunderstorms were intensifying. In addition, since GOES-11 was in Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode, more images were available compared to the normal 15-minute scan interval used with GOES-15 above.

GOES-11 0.65 µm visible images

GOES-11 0.65 µm visible images

Large hail damage swath acrosss northwestern South Dakota

July 25th, 2010
GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

Several days before the largest hailstone on record in the US fell in central South Dakota, McIDAS images of 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR data (above) showed a cluster of severe thunderstorms that propagated southeastward across far northwestern South Dakota on 19 July 2010. From a satellite perspective, this convection did not appear to be unusually intense in terms of cold IR cloud top brightness temperatures (only as cold as -63º C, darker red color enhancement) or any “enhanced-V” or other typical severe storm top signatures, but it nonetheless produced a long-duration wind and hail event that resulted in a remarkably long and wide damage path.

This wind-driven hail damage path can be seen on the comparison of three 250-meter resolution MODIS true color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (created using bands 4/3/1) from 15 July (4 days before the event), 20 July (one day after the event), and 25 July (6 days after the event) acquired from the SSEC MODIS Today site. The hail damage swath appears as the distinct broad tan-colored feature that is oriented from northwest to southeast. According to the SPC Storm Reports, the largest hail size was 2.50 inches in diameter, and the maximum wind gust was 70 mph in that particular region. However, a number of the storm reports mentioned a wind-driven hail duration of 15-30 minutes, which exacerbated the crop damage. One storm report mentioned “1150 acres of corn stripped”.

MODIS true color RGB images from 15 July, 20 July, and 25 July 2010

MODIS true color RGB images from 15 July, 20 July, and 25 July 2010

According to Matt Bunkers (SOO at the NWS forecast office at Rapid City SD), this event "started with two HP supercells across southeastern Montana which then merged into a bow echo across western South Dakota". These 2 distinct storms in southeastern Montana show up with better clarity on the 1-km resolution NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR image compared to the 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image (below). The cloud-top IR brightness temperatures are also significantly colder on the NOAA-18 image (-61º C) than on the GOES-13 image (-52– C).

NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

NOAA-18 10.8 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

A false-color RGB image (created using NOAA-18 AVHRR channels 01/02/04) is shown below.

NOAA-18 false-color RGB image

NOAA-18 false-color RGB image

CIMSS celebrates 4 years of providing MODIS data in AWIPS to NWS users

July 23rd, 2010
AWIPS menu of 1-km resolution MODIS products from CIMSS

AWIPS menu of 1-km resolution MODIS products from CIMSS

July 2010 marks the 4 year anniversary of the point when CIMSS  first began to provide MODIS images and products to National Weather Service (NWS) users in an AWIPS format. These MODIS images and products are available for interested NWS offices to add to their local AWIPS workstations via Unidata LDM subscription. A screen capture of the AWIPS menu of 1-km resolution MODIS products is shown above, with a sample of those products shown below over the southeastern US on 23 July 2010 (when Tropical Storm Bonnie happened to be moving across southern Florida and weakening to a Tropical Depression). In addition, there is also a 1-km resolution fog/stratus product (available only at night).

This MODIS in AWIPS project has been a critical component of the CIMSS contribution to the GOES-R Proving Ground effort — and along with extensive user training, has been a successful demonstration of the “Research to Operations” concept.

1-km resolution MODIS images and products available from CIMSS

1-km resolution MODIS images and products available from CIMSS

In addition to supplying the MODIS images and products, CIMSS also includes a MODIS Orbit Itinerary Viewer tool that is available from the AWIPS menu to assist the users in planning when to expect MODIS image availability on any given day. Also, for NWS users in Wisconsin, 250-meter resolution MODIS true color images are also available for viewing from the AWIPS menu.

AWIPS menu of 4-km resolution MODIS products from CIMSS

AWIPS menu of 4-km resolution MODIS products from CIMSS

Similarly, a screen capture of the AWIPS menu of MODIS 4-km resolution products is shown above, with those corresponding MODIS products shown below.

4-km resolution MODIS products available in AWIPS from CIMSS

4-km resolution MODIS products available in AWIPS from CIMSS

In an effort to continually improve the quality of the MODIS products being delivered, a recent development has been the correction of the “bow-tie” image artifacts that affect the outer edges of the MODIS scan swath (due to the scanning strategy of the MODIS instrument). In order to most effectively perform this bow-tie image correction, CIMSS has chosen to employ the MODIS Swath Reprojection Tool (MRTSwath) that is supported by NASA. Several examples of how the image bow-tie correction process performs are shown below. (Notice to NWS MODIS users: the bow-tie correction will be applied to all 1-km resolution MODIS images and products distributed by CIMSS beginning 27 July 2010).

MODIS visible images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS visible images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS IR images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS IR images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS Sea Surface Temperature product images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS fog/stratus product images (with and without bow-tie correction)

MODIS fog/stratus product images (with and without bow-tie correction)