Tornado in central California

November 15th, 2015 |

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

An EF-1 tornado was on the ground for about 20 minutes near Denair (Local Storm Report | Facebook post) in central California on 15 November 2015. 1-km resolution GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) images (above) showed that clusters of small thunderstorms rapidly developed in an environment of instability along and just behind a fast-moving cold frontal boundary. The location of the tornado is indicated by a red “T” on the 2145, 2200, and 2211 UTC images. Very strong southwesterly winds aloft allowed the upwind portion of the highly-tilted thunderstorms to be brightly illuminated by the low sun angle of late afternoon in mid-November.

The corresponding 4-km resolution GOES-15 Infrared (10.7 µm) images (below) revealed that cloud-top IR brightness temperatures quickly cooled from -23º C at 2130 UTC to -42º C at 2200 UTC.

GOES-15 Infrared (10.7 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 Infrared (10.7 µm) images [click to play animation]

There was a 30-minute gap in GOES-15 coverage from 2100 to 2130 UTC (due to a full disk scan), but a comparison of 1-km resolution NOAA-19 AVHRR Visible (0.63 µm) and Infrared (10.8 µm) caught the very early growth of the tornado-producing storm at 2115 UTC (below). The cloud-top IR brightness temperatures were as cold as -23º C at that time, indicating a high probability that cloud glaciation had begun.

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm) and Infrared (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm) and Infrared (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A timely overpass of the Suomi NPP satellite allowed a comparison of 375-meter resolution VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared (11.45 µm) images during the time that the tornado was srill on the ground (below). Once again, the strong slant of the storms due to increasing wind speeds aloft allowed the western/southwestern sides of the thunderstorm clouds to be brightly illuminated on the visible image. The coldest cloud-top IR brightness temperature was -51º C (yellow color enhancement), which was just shy of the -53º C tropopause temperature reported on the Oakland rawinsonde report at 12 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Infrared (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A VIIRS true-color image of the storm visualized using RealEarth is shown below. The actual satellite overpass time was around 2151 UTC.

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color image [click to enlarge]

GOES-15 sounder Lifted Index (LI) derived product images (below) showed the pockets of post-frontal instability over central California — LI values less than -4 C were seen (yellow color enhancement).

GOES-15 sounder Lifted Index derived product images [click to play animation]

GOES-15 sounder Lifted Index derived product images [click to play animation]