Mesospheric airglow waves over the Atlantic Ocean

September 30th, 2013
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

An AWIPS image of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) data at 06:10 UTC or 2:10 AM local time on 30 September 2013 (above) revealed multiple signatures of mesospheric airglow waves over portions of the western Atlantic Ocean. There are three distinct packets of waves seen on the DNB image — two of which were likely generated by intense mesoscale convective systems associated with a strong occluding mid-latitude cyclone centered several hundred miles north-northwest of Bermuda. The impressive length of the third (southernmost) wave packet located southeast of Bermuda can better be seen in the full DNB swath image (courtesy of Kathy Strabala, SSEC); this feature is likely a high-altitude undular bore.

A comparison of the VIIRS DNB image (and cloud-to-ground lightning strike data) with the corresponding VIIRS 11.45 µm IR image (below) showed that there was no signature of these mesospheric airglow waves on the IR image.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel and 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images, with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

A magnified comparison of VIIRS DNB and IR images (below) showed the difference between the short wavelength of cloud-top gravity waves propagating southwestward away from an overshooting top (located between the two lightning streaks) and the longer-wavelength mesospheric airglow waves seen along and south of the southernmost lightning streak. The DNB image lightning streaks are an artifact of sensor saturation by very bright cloud-top illumination resulting from intense lightning activity.

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

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

Other examples of mesospheric airglow waves were seen on 15 September 2013 and 05 April 2013.

Persistent fog and stratus over Lake Superior

September 25th, 2013
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 GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed a large area of fog and stratus that persisted for the entire day over the northwestern portion of Lake Superior on 25 September 2013. Morning fog over adjacent parts of Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota quickly dissipated as daytime heating and boundary layer mixing increased, but the fog and stratus cloud mass remained over the relatively cool waters of Lake Superior; MODIS Sea Surface Temperature values from the previous day (below) were generally in the lower to middle 50s F (green to yellow color enhancement) over that portion of the lake.

Additional details of the fog/stratus features can be seen in AWIPS images of 375-meter resolution (projected onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel data at 19:06 UTC, along with a 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image at 19:43 UTC (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image, with MODIS true-color image (upper left corner)

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image, with MODIS true-color image (upper left corner)

A closer look at the 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) revealed two additional features of interest: (1) a signature of the burn scar that remained from the Pagami Creek Fire that occurred in September 2011, and (2) the first indications of Autumn tree colors over parts of far northern Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Aqua MODIS true-color image

Aqua MODIS true-color image

Note that Isle Royale could be seen protruding through the fog/stratus features during much of the day; with the maximum elevation of the island being 1394 feet, this indicates that the fog/stratus depth was less than that value. The GOES-R Cloud Thickness algorithm (applied to GOES-13 data) shortly after sunset depicted values that were generally 1200 feet (cyan color enhancement) or less (below).

Snow cover in the mountains of Colorado

September 24th, 2013
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

The first accumulating snowfall of the season reported in the higher elevations of Colorado was on 19 September 2013 in the vicinity of Breckenridge Ski Resort, but a cold front associated with an upper-level trough of low pressure passing through the state on 22 September brought several inches of snow accumulation to much of the higher elevation mountain ranges. Once clouds had cleared the region, the coverage of the resulting snowfall could be seen on satellite imagery. A “visible image at night” was provided by Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data at 09:43 UTC or 3:43 AM local time on 24 September (above), which not only showed the bright lights from cities and towns, but also moonlight reflected by the snow cover located in the higher terrain (the Moon on this date was in the Waning Gibbous phase at 70% of full, providing ample illumination of the snow).

The following afternoon remained cloud-free over Colorado, allowing a good daytime view of the snow-covered mountains on a VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel image at 19:29 UTC or 1:29 PM local time (below). A comparison with the corresponding VIIRS false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image — which depicts snow as varying shades of red, depending on depth and water content — verified that the brighter white features seen on the visible image were areas with snow cover, and not clouds.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and false-color RGB composite images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible channel and false-color RGB composite images

The MODIS Land Surface Temperature (LST) product at 20:33 UTC or 2:33 PM local time (below) showed a large range in LST values across the state, from 100-110º F (darker orange color enhancement) over the dry soils of the southeast, to lower to middle 30s F (darker blue color enhancement) over some the snow-covered higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. The areas of black appearing within the coldest LST values were mistakenly identified by the LST algorithm as cloud, due to the very large gradient in LST values over the highest elevations.

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

MODIS Land Surface Temperature product

Note that the LST values over much of northeastern Colorado were significantly cooler (darker green color enhancement) than those over southeastern Colorado — the wet soils from the historic rainfall event about a week earlier in and east of the Front Range were not able to warm up as quickly as the dry soils farther to the south.

Re-suspended ash from the Katmai volcano in Alaska

September 22nd, 2013
GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (click image to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel images (above; click image to play animation) showed a distinct hazy plume streaming southeastward from the Katmai volcano area in Alaska on 22 September 2013. This was a signature of re-suspended volcanic ash — a deep layer of ash has remained on the ground near the volcano following the massive 1912 eruption — which was carried aloft by strong winds on the back side of a deep area of low pressure over the Gulf of Alaska (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

A closer view using a sequence of four Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images (below) showed the evolution of the ash plume as it moved over southeastward over Kodiak Island and then out over the Gulf of Alaska. Winds at Kodiak (station identifier PADQ) gusted as high as 55 knots or 63 mph. With limited snow cover and strong winds (which were enhanced by local terrain effects), the surface volcanic ash was easily lofted to great heights.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band images

An image of a MODIS-based NOAA/STAR/CIMSS Volcanic Ash Height product is shown in combination with the Volcanic Ash Advisory that was issued by the Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (below).

MODIS Ash Height product with Volcanic Ash Advisory

MODIS Ash Height product with Volcanic Ash Advisory

MODIS Ash Height product

MODIS Ash Height product

A sequence of three MODIS Volcanic Ash Height product images (above) suggested that the average height of the re-suspended ash plume was around 9,000 – 11,000 feet. A vertical profile of CALIPSO satellite-based lidar data near the source of the ash plume (below; courtesy of Mike Pavolonis, NOAA/NESDIS/STAR) indicated that the top of the plume was around 3.5 km or 11,000 feet (at 12:57 UTC, near latitude/longitude 58 N / 155 W).

CALIPSO total attenuated backscatter

CALIPSO total attenuated backscatter

The corresponding MODIS Ash Mass Loading product (below) indicated values of 2-3 tons per square kilometer existed over much of the ash plume.

MODIS Ash Mass Loading product

MODIS Ash Mass Loading product

Finally, the corresponding MODIS Ash Mass Effective Radius product (below) showed that much of the plume likely consisted of particles with radii in the 4-6 µm range, with a maximum value of 8.33 µm.

MODIS Ash Mass Effective Radius product

MODIS Ash Mass Effective Radius product

Additional information on the NOAA/UW-CIMSS GOES-R Volcanic Ash Products shown above can be found in this Java-based VISITview lesson (a separate Lesson Playback Control window will open to assist in viewing the lesson content).

===== 23 September Update =====

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image

On the following day (23 September), a Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band image (above) showed that the resuspended Katmai ash plume was still present, but was much less expansive than what was seen on 22 September.

Hat tip to Mark Ruminski of the NOAA/NESDIS Satellite Services Division for bringing this interesting event to our attention!