Upper-tropospheric gravity waves in the wake of a decaying MCS

September 1st, 2018 |

GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

A series of large Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS) developed across Nebraska and Iowa during the nighttime hours before sunrise on 01 September 2018, which produced large hail and damaging winds (SPC storm reports). Storm-scale anticyclonic outflow aloft around the periphery of the decaying convection acted as a short-term barrier to the upstream southwesterly winds within the middle/upper troposphere, creating quasi-stationary gravity waves along their rear (westward) edges which persisted for several hours. These waves were most evident over eastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas on GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images (above).

6.2 µm Water Vapor images with plots of GOES-16 Derived Motion Winds (below) intermittently showed these high-altitude anticyclonic winds along the western edges of decaying convection — for example, at 0842 UTC, 0922 UTC, 0957 UTC, 1127 UTC, 1212 UTC and 1312 UTC.

GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images, with plots of Derived Motion Winds [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Upper-level Water Vapor (6.2 µm) images, with plots of Derived Motion Winds [click to play MP4 animation]

The quasi-stationary waves appeared to coincide with a few pilot reports of high-altitude turbulence: Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) was mentioned over northeastern Kansas at 37,000 feet and 39,000 feet, and “mountain wave action” was reported over southeastern Nebraska at 43,000 feet.

Pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

Pilot reports of turbulence [click to play animation]

Higher resolution views of the convection were provided by VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images from Suomi NPP at 0755 UTC and NOAA-20 at 0845 UTC (below). With ample illumination from the Moon (in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 67% of Full), the “visible image at night” capability of the Day/Night Band was well-demonstrated. The coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperature associated with the MCS in western Iowa was -84ºC — and the effect of a similar “blocking wave” along the western/northwestern edge of that storm could be seen, which was effectively eroding the approaching high-altitude anvil cloud material from the Nebraska MCS. Note that the 0845 UTC NOAA-20 VIIRS images are incorrectly labeled as Suomi NPP.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with plots of SPC storm reports [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with plots of SPC storm reports [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]