Lake Michigan: ice motion, cloud streets, and a mesovortex

February 16th, 2014 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

AWIPS images of GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) displayed a number of interesting Lake Michigan features on 16 February 2014: (1) the motion of lake ice in the northern and far eastern portions of the lake, (2) the formation of parallel cloud streets over the ice-free waters of the central part of lake, and (3) the development of a mesoscale vortex (or “mesovortex”) over the southern end of the lake.

Northerly winds were blowing down the long axis of Lake Michigan in the wake of a departing area of low pressure; Metop ASCAT surface scatterometer wind speeds were as high as 35 knots at 15:26 UTC (below).

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel image with ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel image with ASCAT surface scatterometer winds

False-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images created from Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.64 µm visible and 1.61 µm “snow/ice channel” data (below) helped to disctiminate between snow cover and ice fearures (which appeared as varying shades of red) and supercooled water droplet cloud features (which appeared as brighter shades of white). Even in the relatively short 1.5 hour period separating the two VIIRS RGB images, a significant amount of ice motion could be seen.

Suomi NPP VIIRS false-color "snow/ice vs cloud discrimination" RGB images

Suomi NPP VIIRS false-color “snow/ice vs cloud discrimination” RGB images

As an aside, another feature of interest seen in the GOES-13 visible images included arc-shaped aircraft dissipation trails (or “distrails”), created by air traffic that was likely circling upon approach or departure from the Chicago O’Hare or Midway airports (below; click image to play animation). Partcles in the aircraft exhaust acted as ice condensation nuclei, glaciating a trail as they penetrated the supercooled water droplet cloud deck.

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

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

Eruption of the Kelut volcano in Java, Indonesia

February 13th, 2014 |
MTSAT-1R 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

MTSAT-1R 10.8 µm IR channel images (click to play animation)

McIDAS-X images of MTSAT-1R 10.8 µm IR channel data (above; click image to play animation; also available as an MP4 animation) showed the rapid expansion of the volcanic umbrella cloud resulting from the eruption of Kelut (aka Kelud) on the Indonesian island of Java on 13 February 2014. The MTSAT-1R satellite was in rapid scan mode, providing images at 10-minute intervals (with some gaps). The initial signal of a volcanic cloud appeared as a small cluster of cold pixels on the 16:09 UTC (11:09 PM local time) IR image.

The dramatic signature of a distinct circular-shaped warm core (shades of red, around -60º C) surrounded by a ring of colder (shades of white, -75º to -80º C) cloud-top IR brightness temperatures possibly indicated that a portion of the cloud plume associated with the explosive eruption rose well into the lower stratosphere, and was therefore radiating at the warmer temperatures that existed far above the tropopause. The leading edge of the top of the cloud plume eventually exhibited IR brightness temperatures colder than -80º C (shades of violet) as it drifted toward the west-southwest, with a minimum of -84.5º C on the 19:29 UTC image. Along the upwind (eastern) portion of the volcanic cloud, a signature of “bow shock waves” was evident: an indication that the massive and dense volcanic cloud was acting as a barrier to the ambient easterly flow across the region. Volcanic lightning was also generated by the rising ash plume (see photos on the Wired Science “Eruptions” blog posts 1 and 2).

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

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

A more detailed view was provided by McIDAS-V images of Suomi NPP VIIRS 375-meter resolution 11.45 µm IR channel and 750-meter resolution 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data (above; images courtesy of William Straka, CIMSS). A ring of gravity waves could be seen around the periphery of the volcanic cloud shield; the coldest IR brightness temperature within the small cluster of “overshooting tops” was 175 K or -98º C (closer view). Since the Moon was in the Waxing Gibbous phase at 98% of full, it provided ample illumination for a “visible image at night” using the VIIRS Day/Night Band — note how the ash-laden volcanic cloud exhibited a darker gray appearance compared to the surrounding brighter white meteorological clouds.

Surabaya/Juanda rawinsonde data (12 UTC on 13 February)

Surabaya/Juanda rawinsonde data (12 UTC on 13 February)

A plot of the 13 February/12:00 UTC rawinsonde data from the nearby (map/IR image comparison) Surabaya/Juanda International Airport (above) showed that a very moist and marginally unstable (Lifted Index of only  -1.7) atmosphere existed over the region about 4 hours prior to the eruption — the tropopause was located at 105 millibars (mb), at an altitude of 16.29 km where the air temperature was -84.5º C. According to the volcanic ash advisory issued by the Darwin VAAC at 00:43 UTC on 14 February, the top of the volcanic ash extended to 55,000 feet or 16.76 km — somewhere between 100 mb and 87.1 mb on the Surabaya sounding. The warmest temperature recorded in the stratosphere by the sonde instrument was -71.3º C at 64.9 mb or 19.02 km.

A GOES-R Volcanic Ash Height product (VISITview lesson | PowerPoint) — derived using MTSAT-2 data — indicated that downwind portions of the ash cloud reached the 18-20 km ASL range (black color enhancement), with a maximum ash height value of 22 km (below; click image to play animation). CALIOP data from a CALIPSO overpass of the Kelut volcanic cloud just around 18:13 UTC on 13 February showed that the top of the volcanic cloud was generally at an altitude of 18-19 km, with some cloud/ash material reaching a maximum height of 26 km; taking that data source into consideration, a subsequent volcanic ash advisory issued by the Darwin VAAC at 17:09 UTC on 14 February revised the maximum ash height to 65,000 feet or 19.8 km.

MTSAT-2 Volcanic Ash Height product (click to play animation)

MTSAT-2 Volcanic Ash Height product (click to play animation)

With the arrival of early morning daylight, MTSAT-1R 0.68 µm visible channel images (below) showed the dense volcanic ash plume drifting west-southwestward; there was also a subtle signature of the “bow shock waves” seen along the eastern edge of the ash plume, similar to what was observed on the IR imagery.

MTSAT-1R 0.68 µm visible channel images

MTSAT-1R 0.68 µm visible channel images

Back to the topic of the 26 km height seen on the CALIPSO data: on the 10-minute interval MTSAT-1R 10.8 µm IR imagery, the warmest cloud-top IR brightness temperature within the “circular warm spot” of the volcanic cloud was -56ºC at 17:19 UTC. The 13 February/12 UTC Surabaya/Juanda rawinsonde only made it up to 64.9 mb or 19.02 km (where it was -71.3ºC) — however, the 14 February/00 UTC rawinsonde ascended all the way to 10 mb (below). So using this later sounding, the air temperature of -56ºC corresponded to an height somewhere between 24.9 mb (24.8 km) and 20 mb (26.2 km) — which roughly agrees with the 26 km height seen on the CALIOP data.

Surabaya/Juanda rawinsonde data (00 UTC on 14 February)

Surabaya/Juanda rawinsonde data (00 UTC on 14 February)

Additional satellite products showing details of the Kelut volcanic eruption can be found on Nicarnica Aviation blog posts (1 | 2).

 

“Industrial-enhanced” snow in Texas

February 10th, 2014 |

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 0.63 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 0.63 µm visible channel images [click to play animation]

Examples of “industrial-enhanced snow” were seen in the Texas Panhandle region on 10 February 2014. In the overnight hours, areas downwind of agricultural plants near Borger (KBGD) received anywhere from 3.0 to 4.3 inches of snowfall. During the following morning and early afternoon hours, the particles contained within the hot, moist plume emanating from a factory located just northeast of Amarillo (KAMA) acted to glaciate the supercooled water droplets within the surrounding stratus deck — as the ice particles fell out of the cloud as snow, the cloud deck began to partially dissipate as seen in McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-15 (GOES-West) and GOES-13 (GOES-East) 0.63 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation).

A similar comparison of 4-km resolution GOES-15 and GOES-13 3.9 µm shortwave IR images (below; click image to play animation) confirmed that the plume streaming southward from the Amarillo area was indeed glaciated — the plume appeared significantly colder (brighter white) compared to the surrounding supercooled water droplet stratus cloud deck, which appeared warmer (darker gray) due to the shortwave IR channel’s sensitivity to the reflection of solar radiation off the liquid droplet cloud tops.

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-13 (right) 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images [click to play animation]

A comparison of AWIPS images of 1-km resolution Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel, 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel, and 11.0 µm IR window channel images (below) provided a slightly sharper view than the GOES images. Again, the glaciated plume south of Amarillo appeared colder (brighter white) than the surrounding supercooled water droplet clouds; on the IR window channel image, the slightly warmer (darker gray) signature was due to the satellite sensing radiation from the warmer ground surface through the thinner glaciated areas of the cloud plume.

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible, 3.7 µm shortwave IR, and 11.0 µm IR window channel images

Terra MODIS 0.65 µm visible, 3.7 µm shortwave IR, and 11.0 µm IR window channel images

A 250-meter resolution Terrra MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below; visualized using Google Earth) showed that the plume was drifting southward over parts of Interstate 27; one inch of snowfall was reported as far south as Happy, in the far northern part of Swisher county.

Terra MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image

Terra MODIS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image

===== 11 February Update =====

On the folllowing day, a Terra MODIS true-color image at 17:44 UTC (below; visualized using Google Earth) provided a fantastic view of the mesoscale patch of snow cover southwest of Borger, Texas.

Terra MODIS true-color image (visualized using Google Earth)

Terra MODIS true-color image (visualized using Google Earth)

Lake ice, and “nuclear power plant effect” snow

February 6th, 2014 |
GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel images (click to play animation)

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

McIDAS images of GOES-13 0.6 µm visible channel data (above; click image to play animation) showed the motion of ice in the nearshore waters of Lake Michigan on 06 February 2014. Along the coast of Wisconsin, westerly winds — gusting as high as 27 knots at Manitowoc (KMTW), and 23 knots at Sheboygan (KSBM) — were causing the thin ice to continue drifting eastward during the day.

Another feature of interest seen on the GOES-13 visible imagery was a long, narrow cloud plume streaming southeastward in far northern Illinois — this cloud plume was a result of waste heat and moisture from the cooling towers at the Byron Nuclear Generating Station (located just east of the red “>” symbol on the images). Although there appeared to be no meteorological clouds over northern Illinois during the late morning and afternoon hours, light snow was reported at De Kalb from 16 – 19 UTC (animation of visible images, with surface reports). An AWIPS comparison of 1-km resolution MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel images at 17:15 UTC (below) indicated that the cloud plume from the Byron nuclear plant appeared to be drifting very near De Kalb (KDKB), which was likely causing the light snow (the surface visibility at De Kalb was reduced to 2.5 miles at 17 UTC). On the MODIS 3.7 µm shortwave IR image, the widespread supercooled water droplet clouds — as well as the nuclear power plant plume — appeared warmer (darker gray) than the surrounding snow-covered ground, due to this channel’s sensitivity to solar radiation reflected off the cloud top water droplets.

At least one other case of “nuclear power plant effect” snowfall has been documented, downwind of the Beaver Valley power plant in Pennsylvania.

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel images

MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel and 3.7 µm shortwave IR channel images

Farther to the north, a significant amount of ice motion could also be seen in the western portion of Lake Superior (below; click image to play animation).

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

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