Summer solstice TROWAL over the Upper Midwest

June 21st, 2018 |

Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image, with overlays of surface pressure/fronts (cyan), RUC model 310K equivalent potential temperature (red) and 24-hour precipitation (green) [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image, with overlays of surface pressure/fronts (cyan), RUC model 310K equivalent potential temperature (red) and 24-hour precipitation (green) [click to enlarge]

A nighttime Aqua MODIS Water Vapor (6.7 µm) image (above) showed the well-defined circulation of a mid-latitude cyclone that was centered over northwest Iowa at 0814 UTC (3:14 am local time) on 21 June 2018. Contours of RUC model equivalent potential temperature along the 310 K isentropic surface indicated that a Trough of Warm Air Aloft (TROWAL) existed just to the north of the occluded surface frontal boundary, curving cyclonically from northeastern Iowa across southern Minnesota into southeastern South Dakota and then southward across eastern Nebraska. 24-hour precipitation totals in excess of 2-3 inches had already been observed at that time.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images (below) displayed minimum cloud-top brightness temperature values of -50 to -55ºC (yellow to orange enhancement) near the TROWAL axis.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images, with plots of surface reports [click to enlarge]

An animation of GOES-16 (GOES-East) Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below) revealed that the storm system moved very slowly during the 00-20 UTC time period, while moderate to occasionally heavy rainfall was observed beneath the TROWAL air stream. 24-hour precipitation amounts reached 4-6 inches by 12 UTC in parts of southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota (FSD PNS) — and a number of river gauges were reporting minor to major flooding by the afternoon hours.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with hourly plots of surface weather type [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with hourly plots of surface weather type [click to play MP4 animation]

It should be noted that TROWAL formation is rather unusual over this region during the summer months — but during the cold season a TROWAL can help to produce heavy snowfall (some examples are documented here, here and here).