GOES-13 vs. GOES-12 visible channel

July 20th, 2007 |

GOES-13 visible image

The GOES-13 satellite (launched in May 2006) has been brought out of on-orbit storage for a few weeks of testing and evaluation. A comparison of 1-kilometer resolution visible channel imagery (centered on Sioux Falls, South Dakota) from GOES-13 (above) and GOES-12 (below) demonstrates the fact that over time there is some in-orbit degradation of the GOES visible detectors. Note that the network of cities, towns and highways can be seen in the GOES-13 visible image above, especially across northwestern Iowa (in particular, Highway 60 which runs southwest to northeast: Google maps) and southwestern Minnesota — these towns and roads show up due to the contrast between the higher albedo concrete of the towns and road surfaces (and the adjacent ditches/medians) and the lower albedo of the surrounding fields of dense, mature corn crops. These features were less apparent in the GOES-12 visible image below (GOES-12 was launched in July 2001, and has been the operational GOES-East satellite since March 2003).

GOES-12 visible image

Part of the difference in the appearance of the scene can be explained by examining a plot of the spectral response function of the visible channels on GOES-12 and GOES-13 (below; thanks, MatG!): the sharper cutoff for wavelengths beyond 0.7µm on the GOES-13 visible channel (red line) makes it less sensitive to the signal from the mature corn crops (green line), allowing greater contrast between the thick vegetation of the agricultural fields and the more sparsely vegetated cities, towns, and highway corridors. Also of significance is the fact that Highway 60 in Iowa was in the midst of a major reconstruction project to expand it from a 2-lane highway to a 4-lane divided highway, making for a wider non-vegetated space that more easily shows up on the 1-km resolution GOES-13 visible imagery.

GOES-12. GOES-13 spectral response functions

A 250-meter resolution “true color” RGB composite image from the polar-orbiting Terra MODIS instrument (below) shows even better detail, with the roadways, cities, and towns standing out very well against the surrounding background of dark green corn crops. Even the square grid network of minor county roads (spaced at 1 mile intervals) can be seen in the MODIS image.

Terra MODIS true color image

Wildfires in Idaho/Nevada

July 20th, 2007 |


Increasing wildfire activity was noted across parts of the Great Basin region of the western US on 20 July 2007 — according to the National Fire Interagency Center, there were 43 large fires burning in the states of Idaho and Nevada on that day (NOAA HMS fire and smoke product). AWIPS images of the GOES and MODIS 3.9µm/3.7µm IR channels (above; top 2 image panels) and the 10.7µm/11.0µm (“IR window”) channels (above; bottom 2 image panels) showed a cluster of active fires straddling the Idaho/Nevada border around 05:30 UTC. The 4-km resolution GOES 3.9µm IR image (upper left panel) showed 3 separate areas of somewhat warm “fire hot spots” (dark grey to black pixels), while the 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7µm IR image (upper right panel) revealed a larger number of more intense “fire hot spots” (black to yellow to red pixels).

Since the areal coverage and intensity of the GOES hot spots was diminishing during the nighttime hours, the GOES-derived Wildfire ABBA product (below) did not indicate any fire activity along the Idaho/Nevada border region around 05:30 UTC; therefore, the 1-km resolution MODIS 3.7µm IR imagery shown above would have been the only satellite-based diagnostic of fire activity at that particular time.

GOES-11 Wildfire ABBA product

Plane crash in Sao Paulo, Brazil

July 17th, 2007 |

GOES-10 10.7µm IR image

The worst airline disaster in Brazil’s history occurred on the evening of 17 July 2007 as a TAM Airlines Airbus A320 was attempting to land at the Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Early media reports (CNN) indicated that the plane was landing during a “driving rainstorm”, which led us to take a look at GOES-10 satellite imagery to examine the meteorological conditions leading up to the crash. However, GOES-10 10.7µm InfraRed (IR) imagery (above; Java animation) suggests that only light (to possibly moderate) rain might have been falling from the comparatively warm cloud top brightness temperatures (-30 to -40º C, dark blue to green enhancement) seen in the vicinity of Sao Paulo (station identifier SBSP) — the closest area of significantly cold cloud top temperatures (-60 to -70º C, red to black enhancement) indicative of heavy to severe convective rainfall was still far to the west of SBSP over interior southern Brazil at that time.

Indeed, a time series of surface observations or “meteorogram” from SBSP (below) showed only light rain which was reducing surface visibility to 4-7 miles during the hours leading up to the crash at 21:50 UTC (18:50 local time). The rainfall was likely a factor in contributing to this particular tragedy, but it is important to note that the relatively short runway that was used (which had just been resurfaced in June 2007) had not yet been grooved to facilitate water run-off and prevent hydroplaning — other media reports (BBC) also stated that two additional smaller planes had skidded off that same runway only a day before the 17 July accident.

Sao Paulo surface reports

The extensive cloud cover across much of southern Brazil prevented GOES-10 sounder retrievals necessary for the generation of Total Precipitable Water (TPW) Derived Product Imagery (below), which may have offered an additional clue as to the precipitation potential of any convective activity in the Sao Paulo region that day.

GOES-10 sounder total precipitable water

Hurricane Cosme

July 16th, 2007 |

GOES-11 visible images (animated GIF)

The 2007 tropical cyclone season has been rather boring quiet in both the Atlantic and East Pacific basins so far…but on 16 July 2007, Cosme became the first East Pacific hurricane of the season (about 1600 miles east-southeast of Hawaii). It is interesting to note that only 4 previous East Pacific tropical cyclone seasons have had their first hurricane form later than Cosme. An animation of GOES-11 visible imagery (above) showed some hints of an eye from 19:00-21:00 UTC, but subsequent convective bursts around the core of the storm masked the presence of an eye after that time. The CIMSS “TCTrak” analysis tool (below) indicated that Hurricane Cosme existed in an environment of relatively weak deep-layer (200-850 hPa) wind shear, which was a factor that aided in the slow intensification to hurricane strength during the day. The “TCTrak” tool is a feature on the newly-revised CIMSS Tropical Cyclones website that allows the user to select a variety of satellite views and meteorological product overlays.

GOES-11 IR image + wind shear