Cloud-top waves producing turbulence north of Hawai’i
* GOES-17 images shown here are preliminary and non-operational *
Transient pockets of cloud-top waves were evident on GOES-17 Low-level (7.3 µm), Mid-level (6.9 µm) and Upper-level (6.2 µm) Water Vapor images (above) north of Hawai’i on 06 February 2019. Some of the waves were located along the tops of convective cloud features, while others appeared to be randomly distributed.
Plots of rawinsonde data from Lihue, Hawai’i (below) showed that winds within the middle to upper troposphere had a general westerly component — so these mesoscale cloud-top wave features were oriented perpendicular to the flow.There was only 1 pilot report of turbulence within the broad region exhibiting these waves, occurring at 2304 UTC at an altitude of 33,000 feet — and this appeared to coincide with a discrete wave packet that was propagating eastward (below). While the more robust wave packets could also be seen in GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (below), their complete areal coverage was more obvious in the Water Vapor imagery — particularly where the wave features were more subtle. Aviation advisories for Significant Weather (SIGWX) had been issued for that region (below), which included a Moderate risk for Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) from 28,000-39,000 feet and the possibility of isolated/embedded Cumulonimbus (CB) clouds with tops to 38,000 feet, along with a west-northwest high-level jet stream from 290º at 90 knots. The pilot report of turbulence at 33,000 feet included winds from 261º at 81 knots. The cloud-top waves were also seen in a sequence of VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images from NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP, viewed using RealEarth (below).