Aircraft hole punch and distrail cloud features over southern Lake Michigan

December 20th, 2017 |

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm. bottom) images, with surface station identifiers plotted in yellow [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images (above) revealed a number of aircraft “hole punch clouds” and cloud dissipation or “distrail” features drifting eastward across southern Lake Michigan and adjacent states on 20 December 2017. These cloud features were caused by aircraft that were either ascending or descending through a layer of cloud composed of supercooled water droplets — cooling from wake turbulence (reference) and/or particles from the jet engine exhaust acting as ice condensation nuclei cause the small supercooled water droplets to turn into larger ice crystals (many of which then often fall from the cloud layer, creating “fall streak holes“). The darker gray appearance of the hole punch clouds on 1.61 µm images confirms that the features were composed of ice crystals (since ice is a strong absorber of radiation at that wavelength).

A good example of a hole punch cloud adjacent to a longer distrail feature was seen over far southeastern Minnesota and the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, using 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (below). Glaciated (ice crystal) cloud features appeared as darker shades of cyan in the false-color image.

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

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

A very detailed view of a hole punch cloud over Lake Michigan was provided by 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 false-color imagery at 1635 UTC, viewed using RealEarth (below).

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 false-color RGB image [click to enlarge]

===== 21 December Update =====

Another example of numerous aircraft hole punch and distrail cloud features was seen on Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images on 21 December. over northern Illinois and northern Indiana (below).

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

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

Day 7 of the Thomas Fire in Southern California

December 10th, 2017 |

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

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

The Thomas fire began burning in Southern California around 6:30 PM local time on 04 December (blog post) — and on 10 December 2017, GOES-15 (GOES-West) Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above) revealed that the fire showed little signs of diminishing during the nighttime hours, and in fact began to exhibit a trend of intensification around 05 UTC or 9 PM local time. However, toward the end of the day on 10 December, bands of  thick cirrus clouds moving over the fire region acted to dramatically attenuate the satellite-detected thermal signature of the fire complex. Although the Santa Ana winds were not as intense as they had been during the previous week, some strong wind gusts were still observed.

A sequence of 4 Shortwave Infrared images from Terra MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS (below) showed the westward and northwestward expansion of the fire during the 0637 to 2032 UTC period. The Thomas fire has now burned 230,000 acres, making it the fifth largest wildfire on record in California.

Terra MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared images, with corresponding surface reports plotted in cyan [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS and Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared images, with corresponding surface reports plotted in cyan [click to enlarge]

In a toggle between Terra MODIS true-color and false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images at 1846 UTC (below; source) the true-color image revealed a broad plume of thick smoke being transported westward and northwestward from the fire source region, while the false-color image showed the areal coverage of the burn scar (which appeared as reddish-brown hues beneath the clouds) as well as locations of the larger and more intense active fires (brighter pink to white) that were burning along the northern to western perimeter of the burn scar.

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

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

A comparison of Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 2032 UTC or 12:32 PM  local time (below) showed a well-defined thermal signature before the thicker cirrus clouds moved overhead from the south. A small cloud cluster (located just northwest of the fire thermal signature) exhibited a minimum infrared brightness temperature of -43ºC — if this cloud feature was indeed generated by the fire complex, it meets the -40ºC criteria of a pyrocumulonimbus cloud.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with surface reports plotted in cyan [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with surface reports plotted in cyan [click to enlarge]

The fire was producing very thick smoke, in addition to deep pyrocumulus clouds (top photo taken around 1945 UTC or 11:45 AM local time):

Shown below is a photo taken at 2045 UTC or 12:45 PM local time, from a commercial jet flying into Santa Barbara (courtesy of Henry Dubroff/www.pacbiztimes.com).

Photo of Thomas Fire pyrocumulus [click to enlarge]

Photo of Thomas Fire pyrocumulus [click to enlarge]

===== 11 December Update =====
 

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Near-Infrared (1.61 and 2.25 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.75 and 4.05 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Near-Infrared (1.61 and 2.25 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.75 and 4.05 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A toggle between Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm), Near-Infrared (1.61 and 2.25 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.75 and 4.05 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 1035 UTC or 2:35 AM local time (above; courtesy of William Straka, CIMSS) demonstrated how different spectral bands can be used to detect nighttime fire signatures. The maximum infrared brightness temperature on the 4.05 µm image was 389 K (115.9ºC or 240.5ºF). Note that the recently-launched JPSS-1/NOAA-20 satellite also carries a VIIRS instrument.

GOES-15 Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (below) showed that once the thicker bands of cirrus clouds moved northwestward away from the region, a more well-defined thermal signature became apparent.

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

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

A 7-day sequence Nighttime and Daytime composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) images (source: RealEarth) is shown below — it illustrates the spread of the Thomas Fire from 05 December to 11 December. Hot infrared pixels are black, with saturated pixels appearing bright white.

7-day sequence Nighttime and Daytime composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) images [click to play animation]

7-day sequence Nighttime and Daytime composites of Suomi NPP VIIRS Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) images [click to play animation]

Snowfall in southern Texas

December 8th, 2017 |

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm, left) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Visible (0.63 µm, left) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, right) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play animation]

The combination of lift from an upper-level trough and cold air behind the passage of a surface cold front  set the stage for accumulating snow across far southern Texas on 08 December 2017. As the clouds cleared, GOES-13 (GOES-East) Visible (0.63 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (above) revealed a narrow swath of snow cover running northeastward from the Rio Grande River toward Corpus Christi — the highest snowfall total associated with this feature was 7.0 inches near Corpus Christi. Daily snowfall records included 0.3 inch at Brownsville and 1.0 inch at Corpus Christi.

A toggle between Terra MODIS true-color and false-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from RealEarth (below) showed the southwestern portion of this band of snow cover (which appeared as darker shades of cyan in the false-color image).

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Farther to the north, another southwest-to-northeast oriented band of snow cover was seen on Terra MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images (below), stretching from San Antonio to Austin to College Station. The highest snowfall total there was 5.0 inches (NWS Austin/San Antonio summary),

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

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

Supermoon VIIRS Day/Night Band imagery

December 3rd, 2017 |

Composite of Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band swaths [click to enlarge]

Composite of Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band swaths [click to enlarge]

The only Supermoon of 2017 occurred on 03 December — and a composite of Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) swaths viewed using RealEarth (above) demonstrated the “visible image at night” capability of that spectral band. A VIIRS instrument is also part of the payload on recently-launched JPSS-1/NOAA-20.

A few examples providing closer looks using VIIRS Day/Night Band (DNB) imagery are shown below, beginning with the western portion of an Atlantic storm that had been producing Gale Force winds during the previous 6-12 hours.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) image centered over the western Atlantic [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) image centered over the western Atlantic [click to enlarge]

A toggle between Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (11.45 µm – 3.74 µm) images, centered over the Southeast US (below) showed widespread areas of fog and/or stratus The brighter fog/stratus features were generally brighter on the DNB image..

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (11.45 µm - 3.74 µm) images, centered over the Southeast US [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (11.45 µm – 3.74 µm) images, centered over the Southeast US [click to enlarge]

Another toggle between DNB and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference images, this time centered over Minnesota, Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan (below) revealed snow cover that was much below average for the date — especially across the UP of Michigan.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (11.45 µm - 3.74 µm) images, centered over Minnesota and the UP of Michigan [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 µm) and Fog/stratus Infrared Brightness Temperature Difference (11.45 µm – 3.74 µm) images, centered over Minnesota, Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan [click to enlarge]

Finally, a toggle between DNB images from consecutive overpass times (0935 and 1116 UTC), showing small clusters of rain showers moving inland along the coast of Oregon and far northern California (below). Because of the wide scan swath of the VIIRS instrument (2330 km), there are times when the same area will be imaged during 2 consecutive overpasses.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band images, centered off the coast of Oregon [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band images, centered off the coast of Oregon [click to enlarge]