Intense central US midlatitude cyclone

March 13th, 2019 |

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

An unusually deep midlatitude cyclone — which easily met the criteria of a “bomb cyclone”, with its central pressure dropping 25 hPa in only 12 hours (surface analyses) — developed over the central US on 13 March 2019 (WPC storm summary). GOES-16 (GOES-East) Air Mass RGB images from the AOS site (above) showed the large size of the cloud shield — and the deeper red hues over the High Plains indicated the presence of ozone-rich air (from the stratosphere) within the atmospheric column as the tropopause descended. A preliminary new all-time low surface pressure of 975.1 hPa occurred at Pueblo, Colorado just after 13 UTC; to the east of Pueblo, a 970.4 hPa minimum pressure recorded at Lamar (plot) possibly set a new state record for Colorado.

On a map of NWS warnings/advisories at 14 UTC (below), Blizzard Warnings (red) extended from Colorado to the US/Canada border.

Map of NWS warnings and advisories at 14 UTC [click to enlarge]

Map of NWS warnings and advisories at 14 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below) displayed a hook-like signature resembling that of a sting jet, which developed over the Texas/Oklahoma Panhandle area after 11 UTC. At 14 UTC an interesting burst of surface wind gusts occurred at 3 sites — Burlington CO, Goodland KS and Colby KS — which may have been related to the downward transfer of momentum along the leading edge of the sting jet flow. The corresponding 7.3 µm Low-level Water Vapor animations are also available: GIF | MP4.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

The MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (below) showed the northward surge of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product [click to play animation | MP4]

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product [click to play animation | MP4]

During the afternoon hours, the strong surface winds began to create plumes of blowing dust across parts of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas — a blowing dust signature first became apparent on GOES-16 Split Window Difference imagery as plumes of yellow, but then became more obvious on “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images as the afternoon forward scattering angle increased (below). Blowing dust reduced the surface visibility to 1-2 miles at Snyder (KSNK) and Lubbock (KLBB).

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) and Split Window Difference images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Split Window Difference images [click to play animation | MP4]

The blowing dust signature (lighter shades of brown) was also easily seen in late-afternoon GOES-16 True Color RGB images (below) — the dust plume reached southwestern Oklahoma by the end of the daytime hours, restricting the visibility to 5 miles at Frederick (KFDR). The blowing dust was also evident in True Color imagery from GOES-17, as seen here.

GOES-16 True Color RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 True Color RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

Not long after the cyclone reached its lowest analyzed surface pressure of 968 hPa at 18 UTC, an overpass of the Suomi NPP satellite around 19 UTC provided a swath of NUCAPS soundings covering much of the storm (below). The air was very dry and stable near the near the center of the surface low in eastern Colorado (TPW=0.29″, CAPE=0 J/kg), in western Texas (TPW=0.31″, CAPE=0 J/kg) and near the frontal triple point in southeastern Nebraska (TPW=0.30″, CAPE=0 Jkg) — and out ahead of the warm front, the air was moist but stable behind a line of thunderstorms in northeastern Arkansas (TPW=1.09″, CAPE=0 J/kg) but both moist and unstable in western Mississippi (TPW=1.36″, CAPE=3506 J/kg).

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) image, with overlays of the surface analysis and available NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) image, with overlays of the surface analysis and available NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

During the early stages of cyclone development, this system spawned severe thunderstorms that produced tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds across New Mexico and Texas (SPC storm reports) late in the day on 12 March. A GOES-17 (GOES-West) Mesoscale Domain Sector had been positioned over that region — which was helpful during a brief GOES-16 data outage — providing images at 1-minute intervals (below).

GOES-17

GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with plots of SPC storm reports [click to play animation | MP4]

===== 14 March Update =====

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with hourly plots of surface winds and gusts in knots [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with hourly plots of surface winds and gusts in knots [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (above) showed the storm moving slowly northeastward across Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa on 14 March — with strong winds continuing north and west of the surface low, blizzard conditions persisted across much of the Midwest.

Farther to the east, severe thunderstorms produced large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes as far north as northern Illinois/Indiana/Ohio and southern Lower Michigan (SPC storm reports | NWS Detroit) — as shown with 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 Visible images (below). The corresponding GOES-16 Infrared image animation is available here; the coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures were only in the -30 to -40ºC range

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) Visible images, with SPC storm reports plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) Visible images, with SPC storm reports plotted in red [click to play MP4 animation]

NUCAPS Soundings and GOES-16 Derived Stability Index Lifted Index Comparison

March 6th, 2019 |

GOES-16 ABI Band 2 (0.64 µm) and Clear-Sky Lifted Index at 1730 UTC on 6 March 2019 (Click to enlarge)

The toggle above compares a CONUS Sector visible image (0.64 µm) over the Caribbean (at 1732 UTC) with a 1730 UTC Full Disk Legacy Atmospheric Profile (LAP) Derived Stability Lifted Index field.  (A “Veggie” Band 03 0.86 µm image, here, means that coastlines need not be drawn in because of the outstanding land/sea contrast at the wavelength).  The LAP Derived Stability Lifted Index shows modestly stable air southwest of the island of Jamaica;  the blue enhancement suggests positive lifted indices (stable air) vs. the yellow regions north and south where values range from -1 to -2.  Visible imagery over the stable region does show fewer clouds than to the north and south.  Does that help you believe the small variations in stability?

GOES-16 Legacy Atmospheric Profile Derived Lifted Index at 1730 UTC along with NUCAPS Sounding Locations, ~1730 UTC on 6 March 2019 (Click to enlarge)

Suomi NPP Overflew the region shortly before 1800 UTC, and NUCAPS soundings that are produced using data from the CrIS (Cross-Track Infared Sounder) and ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder) on Suomi NPP are available at the points shown above. Points indicated in green show where both the Infrared and Microwave retrievals successfully completed, and the animation below shows NUCAPS Soundings (at 18.66ºN, 18.20ºN, 17.74ºN, 17.28ºN, 16.82ºN and 16.36ºN) that bisect the region diagnosed as stable by the LAP Lifted Index.  Note that the NUCAPS sounding with the smallest MU Parcel CAPE, at 17.28ºN, is in the middle of the GOES-16-diagnosed stable region.

NUCAPS Soundings over the Caribbean, location as indicated by the large Purple dot. Most Unstable Parcel CAPE is noted (and also available in the nSharp readout)

Tehuano wind event

March 5th, 2019 |

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right)

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface wind barbs (speed in knots) [click to play animation | MP4]

After a strong arctic cold front plunged southward across the US, the Gulf of Mexico, and then southern Mexico during the previous two days (surface analyses), GOES-17 (GOES-West) and GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) revealed the hazy plume of dust-laden Tehuano gap wind flow as it emerged from the southern coast of Mexico and spread southwestward across the Gulf of Tehuantepec and the Pacific Ocean on 05 March 2019. An image of the topography of southeastern Mexico shows the location of Chivela Pass, through which these gap winds flow. Along the Gulf of Mexico coast, surface winds gusted to 30 knots and higher after the cold front moved through Minatitlán/Coatzacoalcos International Airport (station identifier MMMT); off the Pacific coast, a ship in the Gulf of Tehuantepec reported a sustained wind speed of 30 knots at 12 UTC.

The GOES-16 Aerosol Optical Depth product (below) showed lightly enhanced AOD values toward the outer edges of the swath of Tehuano winds. Note the gap in the product during the afternoon hours, when large amounts of sun glint were present.

GOES-16 Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Aerosol Optical Depth product [click to play animation | MP4]

The GOES-16 Dust Detection product (below) did portray Low to Medium-Confidence areas of dust within the gap wind flow.

GOES-16 Dust Detection product [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Dust Detection product [click to play animation | MP4]

An overpass of the Suomi NPP satellite after 19 UTC provided numerous NUCAPS sounding profiles both within and outside of the perimeter of the Tehuano winds (below).

GOES-16 Aerosol Optical Depth product, with plots of available NUCAPS sounding profiles [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Aerosol Optical Depth product, with plots of available NUCAPS sounding profiles [click to enlarge]

A comparison between a dry NUCAPS sounding (Point D) where the gap winds were first exiting the coast over the Gulf of Tehuantepec and a more “undisturbed” moist sounding (Point M) northwest of the gap wind flow is shown below. The dry air of the Tehuano wind flow was very shallow, but its presence could be seen in differences between the marine boundary layer dew point profile and the resulting height of the Lifting Condensation Level (LCL).

Comparison of Dry (D) and Moist (M) NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

Comparison of Dry (D) and Moist (M) NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

A NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) image viewed using RealEarth (below) also showed the hazy signature of dust-laden air.

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) image [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) image [click to enlarge]

===== 06 March Update =====

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) image, with Metop-A ASCAT winds [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) image, with Metop-A ASCAT winds [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images with overlays of Metop-A ASCAT winds around 0338 UTC (above) and 1607 UTC (below) revealed a secondary surge of Tehuano winds on 06 March. The highest wind speed at 0338 UTC was 44 knots, with 38 knots being measured at 1607 UTC.

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) image, with Metop-A ASCAT winds [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) image, with Metop-A ASCAT winds [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared images (below) were useful to monitor the spread of cooler water (shades of yellow) as the strong surface winds induced upwelling — especially since the resulting strong gradient in water temperatures was falsely interpreted as cloud by the GOES-16 Sea Surface Temperature product.

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 and GOES-16 Visible images (below) showed how the swath of Tehuano winds had spread out toward the south and southwest compared to the previous day.

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right) "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface wind barbs (speed in knots) [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface wind barbs (speed in knots) [click to play animation | MP4]

In contrast to the previous day, the GOES-16 Dust Detection product (below) showed a larger coverage of dust on 06 March — with significantly more Medium Confidence areas.

GOES-16 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) images + Dust Detection product [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images + Dust Detection product [click to play animation | MP4]

A Suomi NPP VIIRS True Color RGB image at 1930 UTC (below) showed the hazy corridor of Tehuano winds bracketed by rope clouds.

Suomi NPP VIIRS True Color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS True Color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Tornado outbreak in Alabama and Georgia

March 3rd, 2019 |

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with SPC storm reports plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

An outbreak of severe thunderstorms occurred during the afternoon hours of 03 March 2019, which produced large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes (SPC storm reports). 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) showed the development of numerous thunderstorms along and ahead of an advancing cold front (surface analyses); many of those storms exhibited well-defined overshooting tops. Tornado track summaries for Alabama and Georgia are available from NWS Birmingham and NWS Atlanta.

The corresponding GOES-16 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images are shown below. Cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures cooled to around -70ºC (darker black enhancement) with many of the stronger storms — judging from rawinsonde data from Birmingham, Alabama (at 12 UTC) and Peachtree City, Georgia (at 18 UTC), this roughly corresponded to an air parcel rising significantly past the tropopause to an altitude of at least 15 km.

GOES-16 "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with SPC storm reports plotted in red [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with SPC storm reports plotted in cyan [click to play animation | MP4]

An area which included western Lee County (located in far eastern Alabama, adjacent to the Georgia border) was highlighted by a SPC MCD that was issued at 1900 UTC. Beginning about an hour later, 2 large tornadoes producing EF2 to EF4 damage moved across southern Lee County — initially beginning around 2000 UTC, then again beginning around 2050 UTC — and the formation of prominent overshooting tops was evident in GOES-16 Visible and Infrared imagery (below). Station identifier KAUO in Lee County is the Auburn-Opelika Airport. (side note: later, around 2204 UTC, the Weedon Field Airport KEUF METAR site to the south of Lee County was directly hit by a separate EF2 tornado, and rendered inoperative)

GOES-16 "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with SPC storm reports plotted in cyan [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, left) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, right) images, with SPC storm reports plotted in red/cyan — Lee County, Alabama is outlined in solid blue, with other affected counties in dashed blue [click to play animation | MP4]

In a plot of the GOES-16 “Clean” Infrared Window coldest brightness temperature for the EF4-tornado storm’s overshooting top as it moved from Macon/Lee Counties in Alabama to Muscogee/Harris/Talbot Counties in Georgia (below), 3 distinct periods of cooling/warming occurred — with the warming indicative of a temporary collapse of the overshooting top pulse. The first (and largest-magnitude) cold/warm pulse (-70.3ºC to -65.6ºC) occurred from 1953-1959 UTC — just prior to the beginning of the Beauregard-Smiths Station EF4 Tornado at 2000 UTC. A second cold/warm pulse (-70.8ºC to -66.9ºC) occurred from 2006-2012 UTC, with a third (-70.0ºC to -66.0ºC) from 2015-2022 UTC. At 2029 UTC the long-track tornado then crossed into Muscogee County in Georgia, producing EF3 damage.

Plot of the coldest GOES-16

Plot of the coldest GOES-16 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) overshooting top brightness temperatures, 2040-2115 UTC [click to enlarge]

The NOAA/CIMSS ProbSevere product (below) displayed a high tornado probability for the cells that approached Lee County, as discussed by the Hazardous Weather Testbed. The ProbSevere model incorporates GOES-derived Normalized vertical growth rate and Cloud-top glaciation rate as 2 of its predictors.

MRMS MergedReflectivity composite, with countours of the ProbSevere parameter [click for link to HWT blog post]

MRMS MergedReflectivity composite, with countours of the ProbSevere parameter [click for link to HWT blog post]

A comparison of Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm) and Infrared Window (11.0 µm) images along with the Total Precipitable Water derived product at 1836 UTC (below) showed that a few large thunderstorms had begun to develop by that time; TPW values were as high as 43 mm (1.7 inches) over far southwestern Georgia.

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm) and Total Precipitable Water images at 1836 UTC [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm) and Total Precipitable Water images at 1836 UTC [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) image, with plots of available NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) image, with plots of available NUCAPS soundings [click to enlarge]

An overpass of the Suomi NPP satellite around 1850 UTC provided NUCAPS soundings in non-cloudy areas (above). One of the Good quality (green) NUCAPS soundings in the pre-storm environment was located over southwestern Georgia (circled in magenta) — it showed a Most Unstable CAPE value of 1264 J/kg, with a Lifted Index value of -4 (below).

NUCAPS sounding over southwestern Georgia [click to enlarge]

NUCAPS sounding over southwestern Georgia [click to enlarge]

The GOES-16 All Sky CAPE product (below) showed a trend of destabilization across southern Alabama and southern Georgia during the 5 hours leading up to the fatal tornadoes in Lee County AL.

GOES-16 All Sky CAPE product [click to play animation]

GOES-16 All Sky CAPE product [click to play animation]

===== 05 March Update =====

Comparison between Terra MODIS True Color and False Color RGB images on 24 February and 05 March 2019 [click to enlarge]

Comparison between Terra MODIS True Color and False Color RGB images on 24 February and 05 March 2019 [click to enlarge]

A toggle between before/after (24 February / 05 March 2019) Terra MODIS True Color and False Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (above) showed subtle evidence of portions of a tornado damage path — presumably that of the EF4 tornado that began in/near Lee County, Alabama and ended in far western Georgia. Click an additional time on the image to view at full magnification.

Sentinel-2 True Color images (below) provided a higher-resolution view of the tornado damage path. Imagery courtesy of Sentinel Hub.

Sentinel-2 True Color RGB images from 24 February and 06 March [click to enlarge]

Sentinel-2 True Color RGB images from 24 February and 06 March [click to enlarge]