Fog/stratus dissipation in southern Louisiana

October 30th, 2018 |

GOES-16

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

The topic of a conversation on Twitter, GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) revealed curious circular areas of fog/stratus dissipation across southern Louisiana on the morning of 30 October 2018. — making it a natural candidate for the “What the heck is this?” blog category.

GOES-16 GEOCAT Low IFR Probability and Fog/Low Stratus Depth products (below) indicated that this fog and low stratus had been increasing in coverage and spreading northward across Louisiana during the preceding nighttime hours (VIIRS fog/stratus Brightness Temperature Difference images) — and the fog/stratus was relatively shallow, only having a depth of about 300 feet or less. In fact, if you look closely at the Visible animation above, a few small spots of slightly brighter cloud can be seen in the vicinity of Baton Rouge KBTR which are tall objects (such as refinery stacks, and even the State Capitol building) protruding above the fog/stratus and acting as an obstacle to their flow.

GOES-16 Low Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Probability [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Low Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) Probability [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Fog/Low Stratus Depth product [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Fog/Low Stratus Depth product [click to play animation | MP4]

A sequence of 4-panel comparisons of GOES-16 “Blue” Visible (0.47 µm), “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm) images with Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm), Near-Infrared “Cloud Particle Size” (2.24 µm) and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images (below) showed no indication of any substantial differences between the cloud material within the circular features and the adjacent fog/stratus. The largest “outer rings” of the dissipating fog/stratus areas had a small amount of vertical extent, which cast a shadow that was best seen in the Near-Infrared 0.86 µm and 1.61 µm images.

4-panel comparisons of GOES-16

Sequence of 4-panel comparisons of GOES-16 “Blue” Visible (0.47 µm), “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Vegetation” (0.86 µm), “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm), and “Cloud Particle Size” (2.24 µm), and Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

The most plausible explanation for the circular dissipation features turned out to be fires that were set in sugar cane fields following harvest — particulates in the smoke could have “seeded” the fog/stratus cloud layer, either changing the particle size distribution or making the cloud more susceptible to faster dissipation after sunrise due to solar heating of black carbon nuclei within the cloud droplets.  An Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image from the previous afternoon (below) did reveal a number of small thermal anomalies or fire “hot spots” (yellow to red pixels) across the region at 1909 UTC (2:09 PM local time).

Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) image [click to enlarge]

Similarly, GOES-16 Shortwave Infrared images on 29 October (below) also showed signatures of widespread small and generally short-lived fires (darker black pixels) across southern Louisiana. Surface winds were very light across that area (KARA | KPTN | KNBG | KMSY | KNEW), minimizing smoke dispersion from any fires.

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]