Rare December tornado in Washington

December 18th, 2018 |


GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of hourly surface reports and SPC storm reports [click to play animation | MP4]

* GOES-17 images shown here are preliminary and non-operational *

A rare December tornado occurred in Port Orchard, Washington on 18 December 2018. GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (below) showed the thunderstorms that moved eastward across the area in the wake of the passage of an occluded front earlier in the day.

GOES-17 "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with plots of hourly surface reports and SPC storm reports [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images, with plots of hourly surface reports and SPC storm reports [click to play animation | MP4]

Due to the relatively large GOES-17 satellite viewing angle (or zenith angle) of 56.38 degrees, there was a modest amount of parallax error in terms of the actual location of cloud-top features associated with the tornado-producing storm. A toggle between GOES-17 Visible and Infrared images at 2147 UTC with SPC tornado reports plotted at their actual and “parallax-corrected” locations (assuming a mean storm-top height of 8 km) are shown below — note how the parallax-corrected tornado plot location more closely aligns with top the parent thunderstorm.

GOES-17 "Red" Visible (0.64 µm) image at 2147 UTC, with SPC tornado report plots at their actual and "parallax-corrected" locations [click to enlarge]

GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) image at 2147 UTC, with SPC tornado report plots at their actual and “parallax-corrected” locations [click to enlarge]

GOES-17 "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 µm) image at 2147 UTC, with SPC tornado report plots at their actual and "parallax-corrected" locations [click to enlarge]

GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) image at 2147 UTC, with SPC tornado report plots at their actual and “parallax-corrected” locations [click to enlarge]

A comparison of VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images from Suomi NPP (Washington overpass time: 2042 UTC) and NOAA-20 (Washington overpass time: 2132 UTC) is shown below. The coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures on the VIIRS images were -42ºC (bright green enhancement), which corresponded to altitudes of 7-8 km on 00 UTC rawinsonde data from Quillayute, Washington (plot).

VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images from Suomi NPP (overpass time 2042 UTC) and NOAA-20 (overpass time 2132 UTC) [click to enlarge]

VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images from Suomi NPP (overpass time 2042 UTC) and NOAA-20 (overpass time 2132 UTC), with the location of the SPC tornado report plotted in red [click to enlarge]

A toggle between NOAA-20 VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at the local overpass times of 1952 UTC and 2132 UTC, viewed using RealEarth (below), provided a closer view of the convection.

NOAA-20 VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 1952 UTC and 2032 UTC [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 1952 UTC and 2032 UTC [click to enlarge]

Contrails along the Florida coast

December 18th, 2018 |

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top), Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm, middle) and Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm, bottom) images [click to play animation | MP4]

A pair of circular contrails was seen along the coast of the Florida Panhandle in GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm) and Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images (above) on 18 December 2018. The contrail features were moving eastward at speed of 50-60 knots.

GOES-16 Water Vapor weighting functions derived using 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Tallahassee, Florida (below) revealed significant contributions by radiation being sensed from levels peaking at either 424 hPa or 442 hPa with all 3 spectral bands — due to a shallow layer of mid-tropospheric moisture — with secondary higher-altitude weighting function peaks around the 300 hPa pressure level.

Water Vapor weighting functions derived using 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Tallahassee, Florida [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Water Vapor weighting functions derived using 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Tallahassee, Florida [click to enlarge]

Wind speeds from 12 UTC Tallahassee rawinsonde data (below) were 50 knots or greater above the 300 hPa layer, which suggests the contrails existed near that level — and the increased moisture at that high altitude allowed the contrails to persist for nearly 2.5 hours before dissipating.

Plot of 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Tallahassee, Florida [click to enlarge]

Plot of 12 UTC rawinsonde data from Tallahassee, Florida [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Infrared and Water Vapor winds (source) also showed wind speeds of 50 or greater at higher altitudes in the general vicinity of these contrail features (below).

GOES-16 Infrared and Water Vapor winds [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Infrared and Water Vapor winds [click to play animation]

Orographic standing wave cloud over the Mid-Atlantic states

December 17th, 2018 |

Topography + GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play MP4 animation]

Topography + GOES-16 Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images, with pilot reports of turbulence [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (above) showed the development of an orographic standing wave cloud — downwind of the Appalachian Mountains (topography) — over the Mid-Atlantic states on 17 December 2018. North of the wave cloud, widespread short-wavelength mountain waves were seen at lower elevations over and to the lee of the high terrain (even extending out over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey and New York). There were scattered pilot reports of turbulence across the region, with Severe turbulence being reported around 18 UTC and 00 UTC.

A comparison of GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor, Cloud Top Phase and Cloud Top Height products at 2007 UTC (below) indicated that this wave cloud was composed of Cirrus with maximum cloud tops around 30,000 feet.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Cloud Top Phase and Cloud Top Height products [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm), Cloud Top Phase and Cloud Top Height products [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) image at 2102 UTC, showing the orientation of a nortwest-southeast cross section [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) image at 2102 UTC, showing the orientation of a northwest-southeast cross section [click to enlarge]

A GOES-16 Water Vapor image at 2102 UTC (above) showed the orientation of a northwest-to-southeast cross section of RUC40 model Relative Humidity, Wind Speed and Adiabatic Omega fields (below). In the middle of the cross section, a couplet of downward/upward motion aloft was seen over the Glen Allen VA area, with higher relative humidity values (shades of blue) above the 500 hPa pressure level corresponding to the wave cloud.

Northwest-southeast cross section of RUC40 model Relative Humidity, Wind Speed and Adiabatic Omega [click to enlarge]

Northwest-southeast cross section of RUC40 model Relative Humidity, Wind Speed and Adiabatic Omega [click to enlarge]

The standing wave cloud developed in the exit region of a branch of the polar jet stream that was diving southeastward across the Great Lakes — strong deceleration created an axis of deformation oriented from southwest to northeast (below), helping the stretch the wave cloud  feature as it slowly pivoted toward the southeast and along the coast. The strong downward motion component of the Omega couplet seen in the cross section was responsible for the relatively sharp upwind (northwest) edge exhibited by the wave cloud.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with RAP40 model 250 hPa isotachs and deformation vectors [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with RAP40 model 250 hPa isotachs and deformation vectors [click to play animation | MP4]

A toggle between NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images viewed using RealEarth (below) provided a detailed view of the wave cloud at 1825 UTC. The coldest cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures were around -50ºC (bright yellow enhancement), which was just above the 300 hPa pressure level on 00 UTC soundings at Roanoke/Blacksburg and Wallops Island Virginia.

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color RGB and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color RGB and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images [click to enlarge]

As pointed out by Jonathan Blaes (NWS Raleigh), these standing wave clouds can have an effect on surface temperatures beneath the feature:



A comparison of 1812 UTC Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm), Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm) and Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images with plots of maximum temperatures on 17 December (below) revealed that high temperatures were confined to the upper 50s F beneath the wave cloud, in contrast to low 60s F on either side where incoming solar radiation was not diminished.

Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm), Near-Infrared "Cirrus" (1.37 µm) and Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images, with plots of maximum temperatures on 17 December [click to enlarge]

Topography + Aqua MODIS Visible (0.65 µm), Infrared Window (11.0 µm), Near-Infrared “Cirrus” (1.37 µm) and Water Vapor (6.7 µm) images, with plots of maximum temperatures on 17 December [click to enlarge]

Southern US storm, and a Tehuano wind event

December 15th, 2018 |

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images, 13-15 December [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images, 13-15 December [click to play MP4 animation]

A large midlatitude cyclone moved from the southern High Plains to the Lower Mississippi Valley during the 13 December15 December 2018 period (surface analyses) — GOES-16 (GOES-East) Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images (above) showed the evolution of this system.

The corresponding GOES-16 Water Vapor images with plots of hourly surface wind gusts are shown below; peak wind gusts exceeding 50 knots occurred in parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas on 13 December.

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images with hourly plots of surface wind gusts, 13-15 December [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 Low-level Water Vapor (7.3 µm) images with hourly plots of surface wind gusts in knots, 13-15 December [click to play MP4 animation]

This event was unusually windy in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley:

Another notable aspect of this storm was a very localized area of heavy snowfall just south of Sweetwater, Texas:


The remnant patch of snow cover was evident in VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) imagery on 14 and 15 December (below). The heaviest snowfall occurred over an isolated ridge along the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau, where elevations of 2500-2600 feet were about 500 feet higher than the adjacent rolling plains. Since snow is a very effective absorber of energy at the 1.61 µm wavelength, it appeared dark on the Snow/Ice imagery.

Topography, Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm) images on 14 December [click to enlarge]

Topography plus Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images on 14 December [click to enlarge]

Topography plus NOAA-20 VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared "Snow/Ice" (1.61 µm) images on 15 December [click to enlarge]

Topography plus NOAA-20 VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm) and Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm) images on 15 December [click to enlarge]

The residual snow cover on 14 December was also seen in Terra/Aqua MODIS True Color and False Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images, viewed using RealEarth (below). The snow appeared as shades of cyan in the False Color images.

Terra/Aqua MODIS True Color and False Color images on 14 December [click to enlarge]

Terra/Aqua MODIS True Color and False Color images on 14 December [click to enlarge]

A toggle between Terra MODIS True Color RGB images on the late morning of 14 and 15 December (below) demonstrated the amount of snow melt in 24 hours.

Terra MODIS True Color RGB images on 14 and 15 December [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS True Color RGB images on 14 and 15 December [click to enlarge]

The strong cold front associated with this storm moved rapidly southward across the western Gulf of Mexico on 14 December (surface analyses), crossing the terrain of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico and emerging into the Gulf of Tehuantepec as a gap wind (known as a Tehuano wind). A curved rope cloud marking the leading edge of the Tehuano winds was evident on GOES-17 and GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (below).

* GOES-17 images shown here are preliminary and non-operational *

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right)

GOES-17 (left) and GOES-16 (right) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

A comparison of GOES-16 Visible imagery from 14 and 15 December (below) showed how far southwestward the gap winds spread out across the Pacific Ocean during those 2 days. Note that on 15 December there were ship reports with wind speeds of 50 knots, at 12 UTC and at 17 UTC.

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images with surface and ship reports, 14-15 December [click to play animation | MP4]

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color RGB and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images on 14 and 15 December (below) also showed the progression of the Tehuano wind rope cloud — the hazy signature of dust-laden air within the offshore flow was also apparent on the daytime True Color images.

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images on 14 and 15 December [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color RGB and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images on 14 and 15 December [click to enlarge]

Metop-A and Metop-B ASCAT surface scatterometer winds across the western Gulf of Mexico [click to enlarge]

Metop-A and Metop-B ASCAT surface scatterometer winds across the western Gulf of Mexico [click to enlarge]

On 14 December, a sequence of EUMETSAT Metop-A and Metop-B ASCAT surface scatterometer winds (source) showed the cold front moving southward across the western Gulf of Mexico (above), and also showed the northerly gap wind flow just beginning to emerge into the Gulf of Tehuantepec around 1607 UTC (below).

Metop-A and Metop-B ASCAT surface scatterometer winds across the southern Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Tehuantepec [click to enlarge]

Metop-A and Metop-B ASCAT surface scatterometer winds across the far southern Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Tehuantepec [click to enlarge]

The plume of dry air being transported southwestward across the Pacific Ocean by the gap winds was apparent on MIMIC Total Precipitable Water images (below). The majority of this dry air was within the surface-850 hPa layer (21 UTC comparison).

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (Total column, and Surface-850 hPa layer) [click to play animation]

MIMIC Total Precipitable Water product (Total column, and Surface-850 hPa layer) [click to play animation]