Occluding cyclone over the eastern North Pacific Ocean

January 29th, 2011
GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

An animation of 8-km resolution GOES-11 6.7 µm “water vapor channel” images (above; click image to play animation) revealed a mid-latitude cyclone over the eastern North Pacific Ocean on 28 January29 January 2011 — and this cyclone was reaching the occluded stage of its life cycle, as seen by the classic water vapor image signature of dry air wrapping into the center of the circulation.

AWIPS images of the 10-km resolution GOES-11 sounder Total Column Ozone product (below) showed there were elevated levels of ozone (350 to 400 Dobson Units, green to red color enhancement) associated with this occluding cyclone.

GOES-11 sounder Total Column Ozone images

GOES-11 sounder Total Column Ozone images

An AWIPS comparison of the 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image with the corresponding 8-km resolution GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor image  (below) demonstrated the advantage of higher spatial resolution for visualizing some of the finer details of the cyclone structure.

MODIS 6.7 µm and GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor images

MODIS 6.7 µm and GOES-11 6.7 µm water vapor images

Yet another Northeast US winter storm

January 26th, 2011
MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor image

The third major storm  of the 2010/2011 winter season  (storm #1 | storm #2) impacted much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states on 26 January 2011 - 27 January 2011. An AWIPS image  of MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel data at 18:28 UTC  (above) revealed a large and complex dry slot, with convective elements developing ahead of the leading edge of the dry slot across Virginia. In addition, to the east of the dry slot over the western Atlantic Ocean a well-defined packet of high altitude “transverse bands” was seen (close-up view) which was forming in the right entrance region of an upper level jet streak.

On a POES AVHRR false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image at that same time (below), high cloud features appeared brighter white, with low clouds taking on a slight yellow tint.

POES AVHRR Red/Green/Blue (RGB) false color image

POES AVHRR Red/Green/Blue (RGB) false color image

An animation of GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (below; click image to play animation) showed the development of the transverse banding cloud structures — the bands were oriented perpendicular to the southwesterly high-altitude wind flow over that region. This transverse banding pattern is a cloud signature that is often associated with areas of turbulence — and in this case there were two pilot reports of moderate turbulence at altitudes of 34,000 feet and 36,000 feet.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (click image to play animation)

A comparison of a GOES-13 10.7 µm IR image with the corresponding MODIS 11.0 µm IR image (below) demonstrated the advantage of higher spatial resolution, with the fine transverse band structure more apparent on the 1-km resolution MODIS image. The coldest IR brightness temperatures within the bands on the MODIS image were -58º C (red color enhancement).

MODIS 11.0 µm IR + GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

MODIS 11.0 µm IR + GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images

A number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were associated with the convective elements that had formed over Virginia (below), ahead of the leading edge of the dry slot that was seen on water vapor imagery. Thundersnow was reported across a wide portion of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states, with snowfall rates as high as 1-4 inches per hour at some locations.

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + lightning strikes + METAR surface reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + lightning strikes + METAR surface reports

=========== 27 JANUARY UPDATE ===========

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation)

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation)

This storm was not particularly intense in terms of a low central pressure or strong winds, but it was able to tap a significant plume of deep moisture (in excess of 30-40 mm or 1.2-1.6 inches) from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, as can be seen on AWIPS images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (TPW) product (above; click image to play animation) and the Blended Total Precipitable Water product (below; click image to play animation). This contributed to the high snowfall totals at many locations (Weather Underground blog| WeatherMatrix blog).

Blended Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation)

Blended Total Precipitable Water product (click image to play animation)

Parts of this plume of moisture represented TPW values in excess of 200% of normal (below; click image to play animation).

Percent of Normal TPW product (click image to play animation)

Percent of Normal TPW product (click image to play animation)

The “warming effects” of the Arctic Ocean

January 25th, 2011
POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR images

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR images

The North Slope region of far northern Alaska had been abnormally cold for a number of days in late January 2011: for example, Barrow had minimum temperatures of -43ºF / -42ºC and -45ºF / -43ºC on 23 January and 24 January, respectively (the normal low temperature on those days is -20ºF/-29ºC). While the sun actually rose at Barrow on 23 January for the first time in 2011 (from 1:05 pm to 2:14 pm local time), it had little effect on warming the temperatures there (which were around -40ºF/-40ºC at the time).

However, a sequence of AWIPS images of POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR data (above) revealed something that did appear to have a pronounced effect on the warming of surface air temperatures at Barrow: a shift of winds from southerly (offshore, from the cold interior) on 24 January 2011 to northeasterly (onshore, from off the Arctic Ocean) on 25 January 2011.  Around the same time as the northeasterly wind shift, a number of long, narrow features — resembling large “cracks” in the sea ice — began to exhibit significantly warmer IR brightness temperatures (-20º to -30ºC, yellow to orange color enhancement) just offshore of Barrow. Apparently a great deal of heat was able to “bleed upward” through these thinner areas of sea ice, which was then transported toward the coast of Alaska by northeasterly winds.

Although the temperature at Barrow (station identifier PABR) rose to -24ºF / -31ºC by 15:09 UTC on 25 January, farther to the southeast the temperature at Nuiqsut (station identifier PAQT) remained at a very cold -51ºF / -46ºC. Note that North is to the upper right, due to the AWIPS “North America” projection of these particular images.

The much larger yellow to orange colored features seen across the interior of Alaska and also over parts of the Arctic Ocean were clouds. The purple colored areas farther inland were regions that exhibited surface IR brightness temperatures of -47ºC or colder.

The first -40ºF temperatures of the winter season in the Lower 48 states

January 21st, 2011
POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR + MODIS 11.0 µm IR images

POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR + MODIS 11.0 µm IR images

A major surge of arctic air from Canada helped to produce the first surface air temperatures of -40º F (-40º C) or colder over the Lower 48 states during the Winter of 2010/2011 — the coldest official minimum temperature was -46º F (-43º C) at International Falls, Minnesota on the morning of 21 January 2011, with a number of locations across northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin in the -30º F (-34º C) to -40º F (-40º C) range.

A series of AWIPS images of 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR and MODIS 11.0 µm IR data (above) shows the increase in areal coverage of surface IR brightness temperatures of -40º C and colder (purple to white color enhancement). The coldest surface IR brightness temperature on the images was -49º C (-56º F) at 08:41 UTC — but surface IR brightness temperatures do not always correlate well with surface air temperatures (which are generally measured in a shelter at a height of about 5 feet above the surface). Note the significantly warmer waters along the north shore of Lake Superior (yellow to red color enhancement) MODIS Sea Surface Temperature values there were still in the low to middle 30s F.

On the 04:29 UTC MODIS image, some features of curiosity are the 3 northwest-to-southeast oriented “streaks” that resemble plumes near Hibbing (station identifier KHIB). These could be plumes from industrial sites (mining, or power plants) — in fact, we have seen similar plumes coming from that same area in the past on 1-km resolution MODIS fog/stratus product imagery. A comparison of MODIS 11.0 µm IR and MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product images (below) shows that the “plumes” exhibited LST values near -20º F (darker blue color enhancement), compared to adjacent LST values in the -30s F (violet color enhancement).

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + MODIS Land Surface temperature product

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + MODIS Land Surface temperature product

=========================================

MODIS true color and false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (Green Bay WI region)

MODIS true color and false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (Green Bay WI region)

As a result of the influx of cold arctic air, a dramatic increase in ice formation was seen in the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan. Comparisons of 250-meter resolution MODIS Red/Green/Blue (RGB) true color (created using bands 04/03/01) and false color (created using bands 07/02/01) images from the SSEC MODIS Today site show filaments of ice extending offshore into Lake Michigan in the Green Bay, Wisconsin area (above), with more extensive ice formation farther to the south in the southwestern portion of Lake Michigan in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois area (below). Snow cover and ice appear as shades of cyan on the MODIS false color images, in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds (which appear as much brighter features on the imagery).

MODIS true color and false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (Milwaukee WI and Chicago IL region)

MODIS true color and false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images (Milwaukee WI and Chicago IL region)

=============== 23 JANUARY UPDATE ===============

With continued cold temperatures across the Great Lakes region, ice coverage increased along the nearshore waters of southern Lake Michigan. A comparison of 250-meter resolution MODIS true color RGB images on 23 January 2011 (below) revealed some northward movement of the ice during the time between the 16:22 UTC overpass of the Terra satellite and the 19:42 UTC overpass of the Aqua satellite (due to southerly winds pushing the ice away from the shore). Features appear somewhat “blurred” on the later Aqua MODIS image due to the fact the the scene was near the edge of the scan swath.

250-meter resolution MODIS true color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

250-meter resolution MODIS true color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images