Record high temperatures in the US Desert Southwest

April 22nd, 2012 |
MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image + MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel image + MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

A comparison of AWIPS images of 1-km resolution MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel data and the corresponding 1-km resolution MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product at 21:22 UTC on 22 April 2012 (above) depicted marine layer stratus clouds extending inland along much of the California coast — but farther inland most areas were cloud-free, with some of the interior deserts exhibiting very hot LST values (as high as 148º F in the Death Valley region of California, and 139º F in southern Nevada and southwestern Arizona).

An overlay of the 21 UTC METAR surface reports (below) showed that instrument shelter air temperatures were only in the 50s and 60s F beneath the marine layer stratus along coastal California, but many air temperatures were over 100º F in the interior deserts. A number of daily maximum temperature records were set on this day, including 113º F at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California, 105º F in Phoenix, Arizona, and 99º F in Las Vegas, Nevada (which tied their record for the warmest high temperature for the month of April, and was also the earliest occurrence of a 99º F temperature).

manyMODIS Land Surface Temperature product + METAR surface reports

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product + METAR surface reports

===== 23 April Update =====

Following the hot daytime temperatures on 22 April, a night-time MODIS Land Surface Temperature image showed that many of the lower elevations were still quite warm at 09:19 UTC (below). In Death Valley, California LST values were still as warm as 86º F. Lower elevations in the Grand Canyon in Arizona exhibited LST values in the 60s and 70s F, while the higher elevation canyon rims had cooled into the 30s and 40s F. In Arizona, record high minimum temperatures for the date were set at Phoenix (77º F) and Yuma (74º F).

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

Volcanic ash plume from Popocatépetl in central Mexico

April 18th, 2012 |
GOES-15 (left), GOES-12 (center), and GOES-13 (right) visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 (left), GOES-12 (center), and GOES-13 (right) visible channel images (click image to play animation)

A small volcanic ash plume from Popocatépetl in central Mexico was seen streaming east-southeastward on GOES-15 (GOES-West), GOES-12, and GOES-13 (GOES-East) visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) during the early morning hours on 18 April 2012. Satellite imagery over this particular region is available every 15 minutes on a routine basis from GOES-13, but only every 30 minutes from GOES-15 and every 3 hours from GOES-12.

According to the advisory issued by the Washington VAAC (below), the volcanic ash was extending upward to an altitude of around 23,000 feet.

Washington VAAC advisory

Washington VAAC advisory

Severe weather outbreak across the central US

April 15th, 2012 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

A major outbreak of severe thunderstorms occurred across parts of the central US during the 14 April15 April 2012 period, producing widespread tornadoes, large hail, and damging winds (SPC storm reports). Noteworthy events included a tornado that produced EF-4 damage at Kanopolis Lake, Kansas, hail up to 4.5 inches in diameter at Randolph, Kansas, and a wind gust to 97 mph at Oskaloosa, Iowa. Six fatalities resulted from an EF-3 rated tornado that struck Woodward, Oklahoma.

1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation; also available as a QuickTime movie) showed a number of overshooting tops associated with some of the stronger thunderstorms. A large plume of blowing dust can also be seen toward the end of the animation, moving northeastward across New Mexico and eventually over the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle regions.

A closer look at a strong thunderstorm in northwestern Oklahoma using 0.63 µm visible channel images from GOES-15 (GOES-West) and GOES-13 (GOES-East) (below) showed the development of bands of inflow feeder clouds along the southern edge of the storm — this satellite signature is often seen prior to the time that a supercell storm is about to begin a period of intensification. GOES-13 was in Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode, providing images twice as often as GOES-15; this allowed the development of the inflow feeder bands to be more easily identified and followed using GOES-13. This particular storm went on to produce the large tornado that inflicted EF-3 damage in the Wichita, Kansas area.

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) visible channel images

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) visible channel images

4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation; also available as a QuickTime movie) revealed that a large number of storms exhibited well-defined “enhanced-V” signatures (an indicator that a storm has a high probability of producing tornadoes, large hail, or damaging winds). The GOES-13 satellite was placed into Rapid Scan Operations (RSO) mode, providing images as frequently as every 5-10 minutes from 15:45 UTC on 14 April to 01:15 UTC on 15 April.

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

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

Shown below is a sequence of five separate 1-km resolution MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel or POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel images, with overlays of SPC storm reports of large hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes within +/- 30 minutes of the image time. Many of the enhanced-V signatures were much more detailed in the higher spatial resolution IR imagery.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

MODIS 11.0 µm IR image + SPC storm reports

A display of maps of the University of Wisconsin Convective Initiation (CI), Cloud Top Cooling (CTC) rate, Overshooting Top (OT), and Overshooting Top/Thermal Couplet (OT/TC) automated detection products showed a good correlation with the map of plotted SPC storm reports (below).

UW Convective Initiation, Overshooting Top, and Thermal Couplet detections

UW Convective Initiation, Overshooting Top, and Thermal Couplet detections

Finally, a comparison of 375-meter resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel, 11.45 µm IR channel, and 3.74 µm shortwave IR channel images centered near the Dodge City, Kansas (KDDC) area (below) showed a pair of well-defined “enhanced-V” signatures (with cold/warm thermal couplet IR brightness temperatures in excess of 25º C), which also exhibited anvil plumes extending downwind (to the northeast) of the vertex of each enhanced-V. The enhanced-V storm just to the southeast of Dodge City was producing a tornado and 1.75-inch diameter hail at the time of the VIIRS images. In addition, the IR and shortwave IR images revealed a number of southwest-to-northeast oriented swaths of cooler ground (lighter gray enhancement) due to heavy rainfall from the recent passage of thunderstorms.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel, 11.45 µm IR channel, and 3.74 µm shortwave IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel, 11.45 µm IR channel, and 3.74 µm shortwave IR channel images

Farther to the northeast, a comparison of 375-meter resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.450 µm IR channel images (below) showed that the thunderstorms over northeastern Kansas, southeastern Nebraska, and southwestern Iowa were exhibiting well-defined overshooting tops, with packets of concentric anvil-top gravity waves propagating away from some of the strongest overshooting top features. The satellite detected a cloud top IR brightness temperature as cold as -85º C (purple color enhancment) associated with the overshooting top over far southern Nebraska.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.450 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and 11.450 µm IR channel images

On a side note, it is interesting to point out that a 1-km resolution MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel image at 04:17 UTC (below) displayed an elongated north-to-south oriented wave packet  from Nebraska into Kansas — and there was a pilot report of severe turbulence at a flight altitude of 31,000 feet over this water vapor wave signature. These waves were not seen in the corresponding 04:17 UTC MODIS IR image, implying that they were likely located within the middle troposphere (GOES-13 water vapor weighting function plot).

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel image + Pilot reports of turbulence

MODIS 6.7 µm water vapor channel image + Pilot reports of turbulence

4-km resolution 6.5 µm water vapor channel images from GOES-15 (GOES-West) and GOES-13 (GOES-East) (below; click image to play animation) suggested that this gravity wave may have formed in response to pronounced middle-tropospheric subsidence/drying related to the formation of a strong rear flank downdraft along the trailing edge of the thunderstorm that was located in central Kansas around 01:00 UTC (schematic diagram from Lemon and Doswell, 1979). This packet of waves generally remained quasi-stationary, but did begin to move westward around the time of the pilot report of severe turbulence. However, it is also possible that the severe turbulence was due to the aircraft’s proximity to a rapidly-developing thunderstorm in south-central Nebraska.

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (click image to play animation)

“County Line Fire” in northern Florida

April 7th, 2012 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the large smoke plume emanating from the so-called “County Line Fire” that was burning in the Pinhook Swamp area (along the Baker and Columbia County line) of the Osceola National Forest in far northern Florida on 07 April 2012. Strong easterly winds early in the day promoted a long westward fetch of smoke transport toward the Florida Panhandle region, but a change in wind direction along with a reduction in wind speeds allowed the smoke to become more densely concentrated around the burn area later in the day. The smoke was reducing surface visibility and causing air quality problems (see the US Air Quality blog) at some locations across northern Florida.

A 250-meter resolution MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below; viewed using Google Earth) showed a closer view of the source region of the smoke plume.

MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (viewed using Google Earth)

MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (viewed using Google Earth)

Even though the smoke was quite thick over the fire source region, a comparison of AWIPS images of MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel data (below) showed how the fire “hot spot” (red to yellow to black color enhancement) could still easily be detected with the shortwave IR imagery.

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR image

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR image

A sequence of 1-km resolution MODIS and POES AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR images (below) showed the diurnal change in size of the fire hot spot signature (red to yellow to black color enhancement).

MODIS and POES AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR images

MODIS and POES AVHRR 3.7 µm shortwave IR images

A comparison of 4-km resolution GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR imagery with 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR imagery in the early afternoon hours (below) demonstrated the advantage of higher spatial resolution for more accuately determining the exact location of the County Line fire in far northern Florida, as well as the ability to detect a few of the smaller fires that were burning at that time in other parts of Florida and southern Georgia.

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR + GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images

Finally, a comparison of 375-meter resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 11.450 µm longwave IR images (below) provided even greater detail about the location and size of the fire. Even though the core portion of the fire was hot enough to exhibit a “hot spot” on the longwave IR image, the superior high temperature sensitivity of the shortwave IR channel gave a much more accurate view of the full areal coverage of the most intense portion of the fire (red color enhancement) as well as the location of active fire lines (black enhacement) out ahead of the main fire hot spot.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 11.450 µm longwave IR images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 3.74 µm shortwave IR and 11.450 µm longwave IR images