Record May snowfall in Duluth, Minnesota

May 9th, 2019 |


GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) showed the cloudiness associated with a midlatitude cyclone (surface analyses) that moved across the Upper Midwest on 08 May09 May 2019.  The system produced accumulating snowfall from extreme eastern South Dakota to central/northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan — storm total accumulations were as high as 10.6 inches at Duluth, Minnesota (observations), 10.4 inches at Poplar, Wisconsin, 5.0 inches at Atlantic Mine, Michigan and 3.0 inches at Astoria, South Dakota (NOHRSC maps of snowfall/snowdepth). Note that the NW-SE oriented band of snowfall straddling the South Dakota/Minnesota border may have been enhanced by upslope flow as northeasterly surface winds encountered rising terrain of the Coteau des Prairies.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below) showed the formation of a SW-NE oriented deformation zone across Minnesota — forcing for ascent was further aided by a stretched lobe of 500 hPa vorticity and 310 K potential vorticity that moved northeastward across the region during this period, along with a favorably-coupled 250 hPa jet streak configuration. Cloud features within the deformation zone across eastern South Dakota into southern/central Minnesota had an appearance resembling convective elements/bands in both the Visible and Water Vapor imagery.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to play animation | MP4]

Although lightning was not widespread — and thunder was not explicitly reported in any first-order station observations — there were isolated small clusters of GOES-16 GLM Groups detected, first over northeastern, then central and finally over southwestern Minnesota between 2256 and 0036 UTC (below), indicating the presence of thundersnow.

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to enlarge]




Through occasional breaks in the clouds later in the day on 09 May, GOES-16 Day Cloud Phase Distinction Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images (below) revealed the stationary signature of fresh snow cover (darker green) across central to northeastern Minnesota and far northwestern Wisconsin (glaciating cloud tops also appear as shades of green).

GOES-16 Day Cloud Phase Distinction RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

===== 10 May Update =====

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

GOES-16 Visible images (above) showed two swaths of snow cover remaining across northeastern Minnesota (where reported snow depths were 1-2 inches) and northwestern Wisconsin (where reported snow depths were 4-5 inches) on the morning of 10 May.

Comparisons of GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature (LST) and Visible images at 1401 UTC and 1501 UTC (below) indicated that LST values were as much as 10ºF colder within the areas of snow cover (brighter shades of cyan) compared to adjacent bare ground.

GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature and “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images at 1401 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature and “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images at 1501 UTC [click to enlarge]

Large ice lead near Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska

March 28th, 2019 |

Landsat-8 False Color RGB image at 2222 UTC [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 False Color RGB images on 21 March and 28 March [click to enlarge]

A toggle between 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 False Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images viewed using RealEarth (above) revealed a large ice lead that had opened up to the east of Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska on 28 March 2019. Snow and ice appear as darker shades of cyan in the RGB image, with open water exhibiting a dark blue to black appearance.

A sequence of True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 / Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS (below) showed the ice lead becoming wider with time during a 5-hour period (note: the time stamps on the images do not reflect the actual time each satellite passed over the Utqiagvik area). The MODIS image appeared the sharpest, since that instrument has a 250-meter resolution in the visible spectral bands (compared to 375 meters for VIIRS).

True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS [click to play animation]

True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 / Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS [click to play animation]

In a 14-day series of Terra MODIS composites (below) it can be seen that the same general ice fracture line had opened and closed a few times during the 15-28 March period, depending on the influences of surface wind stress and sea currents. Days with strong and persistent southwesterly winds led to an opening of the ice lead (such as 20 March); however, the largest 1-day change — and the largest opening of the ice lead — occurred from 27-28 March (MODIS | VIIRS), when the strong southwest winds were bringing unseasonably warm air (over 30ºF above normal) across the area. The daily high temperature at Utqiagvik on 28 March was 30ºF, which set a new record high for the date (the normal high temperature for 28 March is -3ºF). Incidentally, this period of above-normal temperatures contributed to Utqiagvik having its warmest March on record.

Daily composites of Terra MODIS True Color RGB images, 15-28 March [click to play animation]

Daily composites of Terra MODIS True Color RGB images, 15-28 March [click to play animation | MP4]

Signatures of fresh snowfall in the Dakotas

March 17th, 2019 |

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images (above) depicted the signature of northwest-to-southeast oriented swaths of fresh snowfall (lighter gray shades) which had recently fallen on top of the aged snow pack across North Dakota on 17 March 2019. As discussed here, the surface of the preexisting snow cover had experienced rapid melting several days earlier, which increased its “water to ice crystal” ratio — making it appear darker, since water is a stronger absorber of radiation at the 1.61 µm wavelength.

A similar (albeit broader and more continuous) northwest-southeast swath of fresh snowfall was seen across South Dakota (below).

GOES-16 Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

The radar-derived 24 hour precipitation ending at 12 UTC on 17 March is shown below.

24-hour precipitation ending at 12 UTC on 17 March [click to enlarge]

24-hour precipitation ending at 12 UTC on 17 March [click to enlarge]

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 valid at 14 UTC (below), Blizzard Warnings (red) extended from Colorado to the US/Canada border. South of the Blizzard Warnings, High Wind Warnings (brown) were in effect to the US/Mexico 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]