Mesoscale Convective System along the Gulf Coast region

April 30th, 2014
Radar-estimated Storm Total Precipitation for the 24-hour period ending at 13:47 UTC on 30 April

Radar-estimated Storm Total Precipitation for the 24-hour period ending at 13:47 UTC on 30 April

A large Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) developed ahead of a slow-moving cold front and moved over the Gulf Coast region of the US on 29 April30 April 2014, producing record rainfall totals (WeatherUnderground) and creating widespread severe flooding across parts of southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle. The 24-hour WSR-88D Storm Total Precipitation as visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (above) showed swaths of radar-estimated precipitation in excess of 10 inches (violet color enhancement) — but some locations reported actual storm total rainfall amounts exceeding 20 inches (NWS Mobile/Pensacola).

AWIPS images of the MIMIC Total Precipitable Water (TPW) product (below; click image to play animation; Atlantic sector animation) indicated that there were multiple northward surges of TPW values in the 45-50 mm or 1.78-2.0 inch range (darker orange color enhancement) during the 28-30 April time period.

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

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

4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images (below; click image to play animation) displayed large areas of unusually cold GOES cloud-top IR brightness temperatures (colder than -80º C, violet color enhancement) — in fact, the coldest GOES-13 10.7 µm IR cloud-top brightness temperature seen was -86º C at 12:15 UTC.

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

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

This MCS also produced very large amounts of cloud-to-ground lightning (below; click image to play animation), with the highest number of 15-minute interval lightning strikes being 5379 negative and 697 positive at 11:15 UTC.

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images with cloud-to-ground lightning strikes (click to play animation)

A 1-km resolution MODIS IR image at 04:11 UTC on 30 April (below) displayed a minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of -87º C (darker violet color enhancement).

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image

MODIS 11.0 µm IR channel image

375-meter resolution (mapped onto a 1-km AWIPS grid) Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images (below) displayed a minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of -90º C (dark violet color enhancement) at 06:57 UTC on 29 April.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

Suomi NPP VIIRS 11.45 µm IR channel images

1-km resolution POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel images (below) exhibited a minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of -93º C at 10:12 UTC and 11:07 UTC on 30 April.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel images

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel images

Brightness temperatures seen on a single-channel IR image do not always indicate the true cloud top temperature value — but in this case, the -93º C value (which was also seen on the corresponding POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR image) agreed with minimum value on the POES AVHRR CLAVR-x Cloud Top Temperature product. The POES AVHRR Cloud Top Height product indicated values of 15-16 km in these areas of extremely cold IR temperatures (below).

POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR channel, Cloud Top Temperature product, and Cloud Top Height product at 11:07 UTC

POES AVHRR 10.8 µm IR channel, Cloud Top Temperature product, and Cloud Top Height product at 11:07 UTC

As we have seen with previous cases of strong convection exhibiting intense overshooting tops, nighttime Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 um Day/Night Band imagery (below) showed that this MCS produced a large pattern of concentric mesospheric airglow waves that could be seen traveling away from the storm for a considerable distance.

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 um Day/Night Band image

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 um Day/Night Band image

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere Performance during Tornadic Outbreak

April 27th, 2014

Severe weather occurred over the southern Plains/lower Mississippi Valley on Sunday 27 April 2014 (SPC storm reports | GOES-13 IR image animation). How did the NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product perform with these storms? Three examples are presented below.

NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere estimates the likelihood that a growing convective storm will first produce severe weather within the next sixty minutes. The Product uses Rapid Refresh model environmental parameters (Most Unstable CAPE, and Environmental Shear), satellite (GOES-13 only, at present) observations of cloud growth and glaciation, and MRMS radar estimates of Maximum Expected Size of Hail (MESH). A convective tower that grows rapidly (as observed by satellite), for example, will be more likely to spawn severe weather in the next 60 minutes than one that grows more slowly. Similarly, as radar intensities increase, so too do the probabilities. The goal of this product is to increase the lead time for a warning by up to several radar scans.

MRMS Radar and ProbSevere readouts, 21:10, 21:22 and 22:08 UTC on 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

MRMS Radar and ProbSevere readouts, 21:10, 21:22 and 22:08 UTC on 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

The image above shows the radar at 21:10, 21:22 and 22:08 UTC, and also values used in the computation of the ProbSevere product, for a hail-producing storm just south of Dallas. The readout shows the most unstable CAPE and Environment Shear (averaged within the radar object that is outlined), the maximum satellite growth and the maximum glaciation rate that the radar object experienced, and also the MESH. In this case, MUCAPE is 4300-4400 J/kg and Environmental Shear is around 50 kts. The maximum satellite growth for the object being tracked is 1%/minute (% meaning percent of the depth of the troposphere) measured at 20:15 UTC (a time when the radar may or may not have been detecting the developing storm). This moderate growth rate stays attached to this growing convective feature at later times. The ProbSevere exceeded 50% at 21:10 UTC, the first warning was issued at 21:22 UTC and the first report of 1″ hail was at 21:45 UTC. (This storm later produced baseball-sized hail). The storm had moderate growth rates, but very large values of MUCAPE and Shear enhanced the probabilities. Glaciation Rate is reported as N/A, which typically means development under a pre-existing cirrus shield.  That was the case over Dallas, as shown in this animation of visible imagery from GOES-13.

As above, but at 21:20, 21:30 and 22:14 UTC 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

As above, but at 21:20, 21:30 and 22:14 UTC 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

The storm above, over northwestern Mississippi, showed strong satellite growth rates (2.4% per minute) and strong glaciation rates. Probabilities exceeded 50% at 21:14 UTC (just before the 21:20 UTC image shown above) and the first warning was issued at 21:30 UTC, with the first report at 22:31 UTC. This storm produced hail, wind and a tornado.

As above, but at 23:00, 23:08, 23:20 and 23:26 UTC 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

As above, but at 23:00, 23:08, 23:20 and 23:26 UTC 27 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

A third storm that affected the Kansas City metropolitan area is shown above. ProbSevere exceeded 50% at 23:00 UTC, the first warning was issued at 23:26 UTC and the first hail report occurred 23:31 UTC. Satellite growth for this storm is initially strong (1.5% per minute at 21:25 UTC), but the tracked object linked to that strong growth eventually were lost (Satellite Growth values were lost at 23:20 UTC) and probabilities decrease slightly; they remain relatively high because of the favorable environment and radar observations.

For all three examples above, the probabilities were highest with the convective system that produced the severe weather. The combination of the three components (Rapid Refresh, Radar, and Satellite) is key to the probability. Each individual component has strengths but the combination of predictors is what yields a skillful model with meaningful lead-time.



Severe weather continued on April 28th, including fatal storms in Mississippi.  The image below, however, is for a thunderstorm that formed in Missouri outside the region of SPC’s Slight Risk issued at 1300 UTC, and near the edge of the Slight Risk issued at 1630 UTC.

As above, but at 17:20, 17:22, 17:26 and 17:38 UTC 28 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

As above, but at 17:20, 17:22, 17:26 and 17:38 UTC 28 April 2014 [Click to enlarge]

The ProbSevere for the developing cell is 24% at 17:20 UTC, with Strong Normalized Vertical Growth Rate (2.3%/min) and weak glaciation (0.01/min) observed at 1655 UTC. At 17:22 UTC, new satellite observations have been incorporated (from the 17:15 UTC scan): the Normalized Vertical Growth Rate is now 3.4%/min; in addition, Glaciation (0.17/Min) is also now strong. As a result, ProbSevere increases to 73%. The Severe Thunderstorm Warning was issued 15 minutes later, at 17:37 UTC, 2 minutes after the first report of severe hail with this storm (in Holts Summit MO, in Callaway County).

 

The ProbSevere product will be evaluated at the Hazardous Weather Testbed to be held in Norman OK in May.

 

Blowing dust in the central Plains, and a severe weather outbreak in the southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley regions

April 27th, 2014
Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB image

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color RGB image

A Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image visualized using the SSEC RealEarth web map server (above) showed large areas of blowing dust across parts of the central Plains states on the afternoon of 27 April 2014. Surface winds were gusting in excess of 60 mph at some locations.

McIDAS images of 1-km resolution GOES-13 0.63 µm visible channel data (below; click image to play animation) displayed the formation of a well-defined “blowing dust front” that moved eastward across Kansas.

 

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 4-km resolution GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel data with overlays of SPC storm reports (below; click image to play animation) showed the cold cloud top IR brightness temperatures (as cold as -81º C, violet color enhancement) associated with severe thunderstorms that produced widespread hail, damaging winds, and tornadoes (which were responsible for 16 fatalities).

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images, with overlays of SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

GOES-13 10.7 µm IR channel images, with overlays of SPC storm reports (click to play animation)

A 1-km resolution POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image with SPC storm reports at 02:13 UTC or 9:23 PM local time (below) showed the large mesoscale convective system that was responsible for a number of tornadoes in Arkansas a few hours earlier. Note the appearance of subtle cloud-top gravity waves propagating northwestward away from the storm center.

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with overlay of SPC storm reports

POES AVHRR 12.0 µm IR channel image, with overlay of SPC storm reports

Several hours later, a comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB) and 11.45 µm IR channel images at 07:15 UTC or 2:15 AM local time (below) revealed the presence of ripples of mesospheric airglow waves propagating northeastward across Missouri and far southern Illinois and Indiana. These mesospheric airglow waves were likely caused by intense overshooting cloud tops associated with the severe thunderstorms as they were producing tornadoes over Arkansas. Several bright “lightning streaks” could also been seen on the VIIRS DNB image, as these electrically-active thunderstorms were responsible for over 2000 cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strikes in the 15-minute period and over 8000 CG lightning strikes in the 1-hour period preceding the VIIRS images. The SPC storm reports plotted on the IR image cover the 5.5 hour span from 02:00 to 07:30 UTC.

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

===== 28 April Update ======

A comparison of “before” (25 April) and “after” (28 April) 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images from the SSEC MODIS Today site (below) showed much of the southwest-to-northeast oriented damage path resulting from the EF-4 rated Mayflower/Vilonia/El Paso tornado in Arkansas (NWS Little Rock storm summary).

Before (25 April) and after (28 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images showing the damage path from the Vilonia, Arkansas tornado

Before (25 April) and after (28 April) Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images showing the damage path from the Vilonia, Arkansas tornado

VIIRS nighttime signature of MV Sewol recovery operations site

April 22nd, 2014

A McIDAS-V image comparison of “before” (01 April) and “after” (22 April) Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band data (above; courtesy of William Straka, SSEC/CIMSS) revealed the bright lights of the ongoing recovery operations associated with the sinking of the MV Sewol ferry on 16 April 2014 (Wikipedia). The bright illumination of the recovery site is located near the center of the 22 April image; the larger cluster of bright lights seen near the bottom of the 01 April image is likely a signature of extensive squid fishing operations. Numerous smaller and more dim lights from fishing boats can be seen on both images.

The ferry was taking a southbound route across the Yellow Sea, with a final destination of Jeju City (whose bright lights can be seen on the north edge of Jeju Island, at the bottom of the images).