Mesospheric airglow waves

April 5th, 2013 |
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Continuing on the theme of the previous blog post, AWIPS images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel data (above) showed another large mesoscale convective system over the eastern Gulf of Mexico at 06:45 UTC or 4:45 AM local time (06 UTC surface analysis) on 05 April 2013. The Day/Night Band revealed numerous bright streaks denoting cloud tops illuminated by lightning activity — and the coldest cloud top IR brightness temperature was -89 C (darker violet color enhancement).

Overlays of conventional lightning data (below) showed that there were 1493 negative and 180 positive cloud-to-ground strikes detected within a 15-minute period across that region.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image with overlays of positive and negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image with overlays of positive and negative cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

One subtle feature seen on the VIIRS Day/Night Band image was the presence of concentric waves propagating northward through eastward away from the core of the convective complex (below). These features were “mesospheric airglow waves” — essentially “night glow” emitted from a variety of high-altitude (80-105 km) gases (primarily the sodium layer) near the mesopause — that were forced by the intense convective complex in the troposphere. Note that these mesospheric airglow waves do not show up on the corresponding VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image (highlighting the appearance of mesospheric airglow waves)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image (highlighting the appearance of mesospheric airglow waves)

The signature of mesospheric airglow waves was also seen on the previous night (below), again forced by intense convection in the Gulf of Mexico.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Thanks to Steve Miller (CIRA) for offering an explanation of these wave features, and providing the reference “Suomi satellite brings to light a unique frontier of nighttime environmental sensing capabilities”

===== 08 April Update =====

A few days later, yet another example of mesospheric airglow waves was seen on the Day/Night Band imagery — but in this case, the waves were forced not by deep tropospheric convection, but by the interaction of strong winds with the rugged topography of the Southwest US. The flow throughout the depth of the troposphere was quite strong as a 120-knot jet upper-tropospheric jet streak was moving southward along the west side of a trough that was deepening over the western US on 08 April 2013. A series of mesospheric airglow waves could be seen traveling southeastward across the Gulf of California and adjacent portions of Baja California and Mexico at 09:10 UTC or 2:10 AM local time (below). Again, note that there was no wave signature apparent on the corresponding VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

During the subsequent daytime hours, GOES-15 (GOES-West) and GOES-13 (GOES-East) 6.5 µm water vapor channel images (below; click image to play animation) revealed a complex pattern of mountain waves across the region — surface wind gusts were as high as 88 mph in California, 70 mph in Nevada, and 63 mph in Arizona.

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)

Mesoscale Convective System in the Gulf of Mexico

April 3rd, 2013 |
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11 µm IR (Click image to toggle)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11 µm IR (Click image to toggle)

One of the first strong Mesoscale Convective Systems of the Spring Season traversed the Gulf of Mexico during the day on April 3rd. Suomi/NPP VIIRS imagery of the 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and the 11.45 µm IR channel, from 0722 UTC, above, showed elements that are characteristic of these convective features. For example, the thick convective clouds were able to obscure most of the city lights of southern Louisiana on the Day/Night Band image, and the 11.45 µm IR imagery showed very cold cloud tops — colder than -80 C — over the Gulf of Mexico, along with evidence of cloud-top gravity waves over southern Louisiana (and the adjacent coastal waters) as well as over east Texas.

The active convection was generating considerable lightning activity: there were 1275 negative and 186 positive cloud-to-ground (CG) strikes detected over the region within a 15-minute period. Cloud tops illuminated by lightning were depicted as bright smears of light in the Day/Night Band (DNB) image, indicative of the very fast VIIRS sensor scanning motion. Of particular interest was a pair long black streaks immediately downstream of two large areas of lightning-illuminated cloud tops: one over Louisiana, and another farther south over the Gulf of Mexico (magnified image). These black lines represented a post-saturation “recovery period” after the DNB sensor detected very bright areas associated with intense lightning activity. It is also important to note that there is not always a direct correspondence between DNB image cloud-top lightning signatures and clusters of CG lightning activity — only one positive GC strike was seen close to the bright Louisiana DNB image lightning streak, while numerous negative and positive CG strikes were in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico DNB lightning streak.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (Click image to toggle)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR and GOES-13 10.7 µm IR images (Click image to toggle)

A toggle between the high-resolution (1 km) Suomi/NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR imagery and the nominal 4-km imagery of the 10.7 µm IR from the GOES-13 Imager, above, demonstrates the importance of higher spatial resolution in detecting features that are important to aviation. Only the Suomi/NPP VIIRS image cleanly depicts the transverse bands that herald the potential presence of turbulence in the cirrus canopy.

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and auto-detected Overshooting Tops

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and auto-detected Overshooting Tops

Despite limitations related to resolution, GOES data can be used to automatically detect overshooting tops. The image above shows the GOES 10.7 µm image from AWIPS. Auto-detected overshooting tops are also shown, and they are spread out along the southern flank of this convective system, a region where convective development was ongoing. (Click here to see a toggle between the 10.7 µm image with and without the auto-detected overshooting tops). That persistent convective growth was also shown by the UW Cloud-top Cooling product, shown below, a product that highlights the most rapidly cooling growing convective towers.

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and Computed Cloud-Top Cooling (Click image to animate)

GOES-13 10.7 µm Imagery and Computed Cloud-Top Cooling (Click image to animate)

Four Channels of MODIS imagery from 1841 UTC on 3 April (Click image to animate)

Four Channels of MODIS imagery from 1841 UTC on 3 April (Click image to animate)

The convective system has persisted through the early afternoon on April 3rd, as shown in the loop of different MODIS channels, above (including the visible, water vapor, cirrus channel, and 10.7 µm IR). This system is unusually far south into the Gulf of Mexico for early April.

The Bakken oil shale region: at night, and during the day

April 2nd, 2013 |
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference “fog/stratus product”

Signatures of extensive drilling activity in the Bakken oil shale formation region (primarily in northwestern North Dakota and far eastern Montana) could be seen in AWIPS images of 1-km resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB), 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference “fog/stratus product” data at 09:32 UTC or 3:32 AM local time on 02 April 2013 (above). On the DNB image, the bright lights of cities and towns are very evident, along with the widespread illumination of the drilling activity “man camps” and a few natural gas flares. Farther to the west, in northeastern Montana, the brighter ice-covered portions of Fort Peck Lake can also be seen (south of Glasgow, station identifier KGGW).

While the majority of the drilling activity area was cloud-free, the fog/stratus product did show a few patches of stratus cloud to the north and to the south. The numerous black pixels on the fog/stratus product image indicated “hot spots” that were due to natural gas flares — the largest and hottest of which showed up with a yellow enhancement on the 3.74 µm shortwave IR image.

During the following daytime hours, a comparison of 250-meter resolution MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images at 19:44 UTC or 1:44 PM local time (below) from the SSEC MODIS Today site showed that the Bakken drilling activity region was generally located along the boundary between snow cover (cyan on the false color image) and bare ground to the south. In North Dakota the morning snow depth was 16 inches at Minot Air Force Base and 21 inches at Lansford (both located in the northeastern corner of the satellite scene). The Missouri river upstream of Garrison Dam was also seen to be snow and ice-covered. The extensive grid of well-traveled north-to-south and west-to-east roads and highways was also becoming apparent across the busy Bakken drilling activity region on the MODIS images. More clarity in the ice-covered portions of Fort Peck Lake was also seen.

MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

53rd anniversary of the first image from a meteorological satellite

April 1st, 2013 |

 

TIROS-1 visible image

TIROS-1 visible image

Today marks the 53rd anniversary of the first image from the meteorological satellite TIROS-1, which was available on 01 April 1960 (above). While TIROS-1 was only operational for 78 days, it provided a number of images of the Earth and cloud systems (including the first image of a tropical cyclone, over the South Pacific Ocean on 10 April 1960).

One example that demonstrates how satellite imagery has improved over the past 53 years is a night-time comparison of AWIPS images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel  data (below), covering the same general region as shown on the first TIROS-1 image (Maine, and the Canadian Maritime provinces). With ample illumination from the moon (Waning Gibbous phase, 67% of full), the Day/Night Band offered a “visible image at night” which showed such features as the extent of sea ice in the channels between Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, as well as a series of banded wave clouds associated with an undular bore off the southern coast of Nova Scotia. Subtle details regarding the location and cloud-top IR brightness temperature of overshooting tops could also be seen in the convective clouds off the coast of Maine.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band and 11.45 µm IR channel images

UPDATE: Hat-tip to AccuWeather’s Jesse Ferrell, who found this information which indicates that the TIROS-1 image shown above was actually taken on 02 April 1960! The actual first image from TIROS-1 (taken on 01 April 1960) is shown below (courtesy of Rick Kohrs, SSEC).

The actual first TIROS-1 image (taken on 01 April 1960)

The actual first TIROS-1 image (taken on 01 April 1960)