Day 14 of the Thomas Fire in Southern California

December 17th, 2017 |

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with surface station identifiers plotted in yellow [click to play MP4 animation]

05-17 December GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with surface station identifiers plotted in yellow and State Highway 101 plotted in cyan [click to play MP4 animation]

The Thomas Fire (InciWeb | Wikipedia) began to burn around 0226 UTC on 05 December 2017 (or 6:26 PM Pacific time on 04 December). By 17 December, the fire had burned 270,000 acres — the third largest wildfire on record in California — and caused 1 fatality. An animation of GOES-15 (GOES-West) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above) showed the evolution of the thermal signature (or “hot spots”, as depicted by darker black to yellow to red pixels) during the 0200 UTC 05 December to 0215 UTC 18 December time period. Besides the largest Thomas Fire, other smaller and more short-lived fires could also be seen — especially early in the period, when the Santa Ana winds were strongest (05-07 December blog post). Thick clouds moving over the region later in the period either attenuated or completely masked the thermal signatures, even though the fire was ongoing.

GOES-16 began transmitting imagery (from its GOES-East position at 75.2º W) at 1630 UTC on 14 December — a comparison of GOES-15 and GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) during the 14-17 December period (below) showed that in spite of the larger GOES-16 satellite view angle (62.6º, vs 43.2º for GOES-15), the improved spatial resolution (2 km vs 4 km at satellite sub-point) and improved temporal resolution (images every 5 minutes, with no 30-minute gaps due to Full Disk scans) provided a more accurate depiction of the fire trends and intensities.

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-16 (right) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 (left) and GOES-16 (right) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play MP4 animation]

In a comparison of 250-meter resolution Terra MODIS true-color and false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images (source) at 1853 UTC on 17 December (below), minimal amounts of smoke and a lack of clouds allowed a good view of the large Thomas Fire burn scar (darker shades of reddish-brown) on the false-color image.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 17 December [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 17 December [click to enlarge]

During the first full day of the fires on 05 December, a toggle between comparable Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color images (source) revealed very thick smoke plumes drifting southwestward over the adjacent offshore waters of the Pacific Ocean (below).

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color images, 05 December [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 05 December [click to enlarge]

A toggle between 05 December Aqua MODIS and 17 December Terra MODIS false-color images (below) showed the northward and northwestward growth of the Thomas Fire burn scar.

Aqua MODIS (05 December) and Terra MODIS (17 December) false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS (05 December) and Terra MODIS (17 December) false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Snowfall across the Deep South

December 9th, 2017 |

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-13 (GOES-East) Visible (0.63 µm) images (above) showed a broad swath of snow cover from Louisiana to Virginia on 09 December 2017. Some notable storm total accumulations included 6.5 inches at Kentwood, Louisiana, 7.0 inches at Bay Springs, Mississippi, 12.0 inches at Jacksonville, Alabama, 2.0 inches at Century, Florida, 18.0 inches at Mountain City, Georgia, 7.0 inches near Roan Mountain, Tennessee, and 25 inches at Mt. Mitchell State Park, North Carolina. Daily record snowfall accumulations included a Trace at New Orleans, Louisiana, 5.1 inches at Jackson, Mississippi and 1 inch at Mobile, Alabama.

A closer view of GOES-13 visible images (below) showed the band of snow cover across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Much of the the snow melted quickly, due to warm ground temperatures and a full day of sun.

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with station identifiers plotted in yellow [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images, with hourly surface reports plotted in yellow [click to play animation]

A more detailed view of the snow cover was provided by 250-meter resolution Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from the SSEC MODIS Direct Broadcast site (below). Note that snow cover was evident all the way to the Gulf Coast at Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana early in the day.

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images of the central Gulf Coast region [click to enlarge]

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color images of the central Gulf Coast region [click to enlarge]

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images, centered over Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana [click to enlarge]

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color RGB images, centered over Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana [click to enlarge]

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color images, centered over New Orleans, Louisiana [click to enlarge]

Terra and Aqua MODIS true-color images, centered over New Orleans, Louisiana [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color image, centered over Atlanta, Georgia [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color image, centered over Atlanta, Georgia [click to enlarge]

It is interesting to note that with the aid of reflected moonlight — the Moon was in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 59% of Full — the Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) was able to detect the area of deeper snow cover across southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi at 0741 UTC or 1:41 AM local time; this snow cover was then seen during the following morning on GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) imagery at 1440 UTC or 8:40 AM local time (below). A VIIRS instrument is part of the payload on the recently-launched JPSS-1/NOAA-20 satellite.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Wildfires in southern California

December 5th, 2017 |

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with hourly surface plots [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with hourly surface plots [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 (GOES-West) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above; also available as an animated GIF) showed the rapid development of wildfires driven by strong Santa Ana winds in Southern California on 05 December 2017. The fire thermal anomalies or “hot spots” are highlighted by the dark black to yellow to red pixels — the initial signature was evident on the 0230 UTC image (6:30 PM local time on 04 December), however the GOES-15 satellite was actually scanning that particular area at 0234 UTC or 6:34 PM local time. The Thomas Fire (the largest of the fires) advanced very quickly toward the southwest, nearly reaching the coast.

Nighttime image toggles between Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) data at 0904 UTC and 1044 UTC (below) revealed the large fire hot spots, along with the extensive smoke plume that was drifting over the adjacent nearshore waters of the Pacific Ocean. With ample illumination from the Moon (which was in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 95% of Full), the “visible image at night” capability of the VIIRS Day/Night Band — which will also be available from the recently-launched JPSS-1/NOAA-20 satellite — was clearly demonstrated.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

A toggle between the two VIIRS Day/Night Band images (below; courtesy of William Straka, CIMSS) showed initial darkness resulting from fire-related power outages in Santa Barbara County to the north, and Ventura County to the south (in the Oxnard/Camarillo area).

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) images [click to enlarge]

This large wind-driven fire was also very hot — the maximum brightness temperature on the VIIRS 4.05 µm Shortwave Infrared image was 434.6 K or 322.6º F, which was above the saturation threshold of the VIIRS 3.75 µm Shortwave Infrared detectors (below).

Suomi NPP VIIRS 4.05 µm and 3.75 µm Shortwave Infrared images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS 4.05 µm and 3.75 µm Shortwave Infrared images [click to enlarge]

In a comparison of daytime GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (below), the west-southwestward transport of smoke over the Pacific Ocean was clearly seen.

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm, top) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, bottom) images [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 Visible (0.63 µm, top) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, bottom) images [click to play MP4 animation]

A more detailed view of the thick smoke originating from the 3 fires (from north to south: the Thomas, Rye and Creek fires) was provided by a 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) image from the MODIS Today site (below).

Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Immediately downwind of the Creek Fire, smoke was reducing the surface visibility to 1 mile at Van Nuys and adversely affecting air quality (below).

Time series plot of surface reports at Van Nuys, California [click to enlarge]

Time series plot of surface reports at Van Nuys, California [click to enlarge]

===== 06 December Update =====

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.75 µm and 4.05 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.75 µm and 4.05 µm) images [click to enlarge]

The fires in Southern California continued to burn into the following night, as shown by Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.75 µm and 4.05 µm) images (above; courtesy of William Straka, CIMSS). A large-scale view with Day/Night Band imagery revealed the extent of smoke transport westward over the Pacific Ocean.

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (below) displayed the thermal signatures exhibited by the fires. Note the appearance of a new fire — the Skirball Fire — first appearing on the 1300 UTC (5:00 AM local time) image, just north of Santa Monica (KSMO). Although the Santa Ana winds were not quite as strong as the previous day, some impressive wind gusts were still reported.

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with hourly surface plots [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images, with hourly surface plots [click to play MP4 animation]

A toggle between 250-meter resolution Terra (1911 UTC) & Aqua (2047 UTC) MODIS true-color images from MODIS Today (below) showed significant pyrocumulus development from a flare-up along the northeast perimeter of the Thomas Fire. The cloud plume only exhibited a minimum infrared brightness temperature of +5.5º C on the corresponding Aqua MODIS Infrared Window image, far above the -40ºC threshold assigned to pyroCumulonimbus clouds.

Comparison of Terra (1911 UTC) & Aqua (2047 UTC) MODIS true-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Comparison of Terra (1911 UTC) & Aqua (2047 UTC) MODIS true-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

===== 07 December Update =====

Suomi NPP Day Night Band Imagery, 3-7 December 2017, over southern California

RealEarth imagery of the Day Night Band over 5 days (one image each night from 3 through 7 December), above, shows the evolution of the fire complex (Imagery courtesy Russ Dengel, SSEC). Similarly, a closer view of daily composites of VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) imagery (below) revealed the growth and spread of the Thomas Fire from 04-07 December.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) image composites [click to enlarge\

Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) image composites [click to enlarge]

In a toggle between Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images (below), the large burn scar of the Thomas Fire (shades of red to brown) was very apparent on the false-color image.

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS true-color and false-color images [click to enlarge]

Prescribed burn in Wisconsin

November 28th, 2017 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images, with plots of hourly surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, left) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images, with plots of hourly surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

* GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational and are undergoing testing *

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above; also available as an animated GIF) showed signatures associated with a prescribed burn in western Wisconsin on 28 November 2017. The Shortwave Infrared images revealed a warm thermal anomaly or “hot spot” (dark black to yellow to red pixels) — and on the visible images, a thin smoke plume could be seen drifting southeastward from the fire source.

Early in the animation sequence, however, a band of cirrus cloud was moving over the fire — yet a faint thermal signature (darker gray to black pixels) could occasionally be seen on the Shortwave Infrared imagery. The cirrus cloud layer was thin enough to allow some of the heat energy emitted by the fire to pass through and reach the satellite detectors. Once the cirrus moved to the south, the fire’s hot spot became much more apparent.

A toggle between Terra MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images at 1812 UTC (below) also showed a faint warm fire signature through the cirrus clouds — the cloud-top Infrared Window brightness temperature directly over the fire in northern Monroe County was -33ºC, while the warmest Shortwave Infrared brightness temperature of the subtle fire signature was +1ºC.

Terra MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images [click to enlarge]

As was seen on the GOES-16 imagery, after the band of cirrus moved south of the fire an Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image at 1912 UTC (below) displayed a pronounced fire hot spot signature.

Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image [click to enlarge]

(Thanks to Dave Schmidt, NWS La Crosse, for bringing this case to our attention!)